Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo, LLC Attorneys at law
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Black New Jersey teacher told to cope with overt racism by peers

A black New Jersey elementary teacher quit the job she loved after just two years because she found the environment incredibly hostile. Despite the fact that the school has a primarily white student body, the problem wasn't racism from the parents or the students; It was the other teachers.

The woman, who was the first African-American teacher hired in the school on a full-time basis since 1990 alleges that the other teachers in her grade subjected her to racist remarks and questions, froze her out of important communications and -- acting like school bullies -- even refused to sit with her at the lunch table in the teacher's lounge.

To start with, she was accused of only getting her position through an affirmative action program -- essentially suggesting that she wasn't truly qualified for the job. The other teachers also made disparaging remarks about her alleged intelligence, even saying things like, "I would show you my lesson plans, but you won't understand them anyway."

In addition, the other teachers would refuse to acknowledge her presence -- even when she spoke to them. If she sat down with them, they would leave. They also removed her name from online sign-up sheets for classroom equipment and otherwise denied her -- and her students -- access to needed materials. They also refused to allow her to teach anything about Black history because there wasn't "time in the curriculum," although there was apparently a week's worth of time to teach the kids about Dr. Seuss.

When she complained about the treatment to her principal -- who is also black -- he essentially told her that it was just something she would have to cope with and that the white co-workers "don't know what they are doing." When she finally went over his head to the union and the district's assistant superintendent, she found herself reassigned to a different grade -- and a classroom filled with children who all had learning or behavioral problems. The other teachers referred to her class as "the boiler pot mix."

The principal's defense? He said, "The way I was raised, white is always right."

It's incredibly frustrating that anyone would be subjected to this kind of treatment today -- but it does happen. If you're the victim of racial discrimination in the workplace, you do have legal options.

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