African American teachers file suit alleging discrimination
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Six African American Montclair teachers have filed a suit against the Board of Education alleging they were discriminated against from teaching extra classes that would have resulted in extra wages.
The six Glenfield Middle School teachers claim that the district failed to post job openings on the district website or email notice of the open positions to all employees for the 2017-18 school year as required by law.
Teachers are required to carry a class load of five classes. Teachers who take on additional classes are to be compensated an additional one-fifth of their salaries.
The suit was filed by attorney Richard Friedman in Essex County on Aug. 21 on behalf of the teachers Emmett Murphy, Rosalind Thompson, Rhonda Smith, Doretha Armstead, Margaret Whitsett and Zuleha Jones.
“The only teachers offered the additional classes were white or Caucasian teachers,” the suit asserts.
The suit alleges that the Glenfield principal filled the positions with only Caucasian teachers. The principal at the time was Joseph Putrino. Putrino is now principal at Renaissance Middle School.
According to the suit, one of the positions was for a geometry teacher, and both Murphy and Thompson were qualified geometry teachers. Three Caucasian teachers were also assigned to teach English/ Reading although Smith, Armstead and Whitsett were qualified to teach that subject. And a Caucasian teacher was assigned to a special ed math class that Jones and Armstead were qualified to teach.
The teachers filed an affirmative action grievance with the district after learning of the positions that were filled by white teachers who earned up to an additional one-fifth of their salaries.
Former Superintendent Kendra Johnson, in response to the grievance, stated that “disparate treatment of African Americans occurred in that none of the African Americans teachers were offered the opportunity to earn additional compensation for these positions.”
The teachers are seeking compensatory damages, equitable relief, interest and attorney's fees.
School officials were not available for comment.