The former principal of an elementary school in Ann Arbor has sued the district, saying she was pushed out of her job because she’s white.
Shannon Blick, 39, had run Lawton Elementary School for five years and possessed what her lawyer calls a “spotless and pristine employment record” before she was placed on administrative leave in April and effectively forced to resign.
“White people have rights,” said William Tishkoff, Lawton’s lawyer. “So yeah, this is a reverse (discrimination) case. Right now, it’s very timely in terms of what’s happening in our country.”
The lawsuit seeks $5 million and claims that Blick was forced out of her job so the district could replace her with an African American principal.
It goes on to say the conduct is consistent with the district’s and the board of education’s “notoriety for inhibiting and stepping on the civil rights of Caucasian and non-minority administrators when African American and minority administrators covet Caucasian and non-minority administrators’ legitimately earned and obtained positions, seniority, pay, jobs or duties.”
School district spokesman Andrew Cluley said the district had not yet been served with the complaint and “does not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.”
While many school districts in Michigan have struggled to diversify their staffing ranks, demographic data the district submitted to the Michigan Center for Educational Performance Information shows that in 2016, Ann Arbor schools had 75 administrators, 24 of them black.
That makes 32% of the administrators African American in a district in which the black student population is 14%. The district touts its diversity, noting on its website: “In the Ann Arbor Public Schools we respect diversity, celebrate and benefit from a rich, diverse learning and work environment, and understand that diversity strengthens the organization.”
But Tishkoff said the district has treated white administrators unfairly by subjecting them to hostility in the workplace and passing them over for advancement so that African Americans can get ahead.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘It’s about time, ‘” Tishkoff said of the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Blick had been principal at Lawton since 2013, when her assistant principal was promoted to principal in another building. Filling the empty assistant principal spot typically involved interviews and community meetings, including parents, but the district immediately installed Taneia Giles, an assistant principal from another school.
Giles had reported seeing acts of discrimination against blacks while in her previous assignment and she was given the spot at Lawton because the district and the board of education “were afraid they might lose a minority administrator,” the lawsuit claims.
The suit also claims that in April, Blick was handed a letter by Shonta A. Langford, executive director of human resources and employee relations for the district, that said:
“You are being placed on an administrative paid leave of absence effective immediately. … In the meantime, you are directed not to contact any students, parents, or staff regarding this matter.”
Blick also was barred from entering the school, where her three children attend, according to the lawsuit.
Another principal told Blick the district was investigating her because a custodian at Lawton had stolen $25,000 from the school over a four-year period and Blick was being held responsible. She was urged to resign before the end of the school year June 30, the lawsuit said.
In May, a group of Lawton parents were preparing to attend the school board meeting to defend Blick, but Dawn Linden, executive director of elementary education for the district, told Blick to convince them to remain silent, according to the lawsuit.
“Ms. Blick has also been prohibited, under threat of discharge, from attending: public school board meetings; teacher training; committee meetings, which she would normally attend; meetings with parents of Lawton students; special events involving Lawton students; and multiple other events and doings,” according to the suit.
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