Cora Haynes, who was employed at Evergreen School District’s 49th Street Academy in Vancouver, has filed a lawsuit against the district, alleging she was subjected to racial discrimination.
According to the lawsuit, Haynes “experienced race-based workplace hostility and discriminatory treatment from white staff and administration that grew in frequency and severity over her three years at 49th Street until her unlawful termination.” Ms Haynes was employed at the school in 2016 to 2019.
The suit claims that Haynes was treated “differently than her non-Black coworkers, creating and maintaining a hostile work environment, retaliating against her for complaining about and opposing discrimination in the workplace, and terminating her employment.’’
Haynes began working for the Evergreen School District as a substitute teacher in 2015. She was promoted to full-time status for the 2016-17 school year and was assigned to the 49th Street Academy which is described as a “therapeutic day school designed as an alternative to traditional public school for students with significant behavioral, mental and/or physical challenges.”
According to the lawsuit, at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, “a white staff member complained to Principal [Amber] Lindley that Ms. Haynes talked ‘too Black.’ Principal Lindley made light of the matter and commented to the staff that that should be expected after 400 years of slavery.’’
The suit claims that over the next three years “Ms. Haynes was subjected to further unwelcome and offensive race-based ridicule, mockery, name calling and discriminatory remarks by white faculty members and staff, often about her hair, dress, appearance and food.’’
When Haynes wore her hair in an afro or wore a black suit, white staff members allegedly made jokes about it being ‘Angela Davis day’ and some would raise their fists toward her and yell ‘black power!’ On several occasions, they referred to her as a ‘little miss black panther’ and ‘an angry black woman.’
During a staff meeting in August 2018, the lawsuit alleges that “Ms. Haynes verbally objected to what she perceived as a culturally insensitive assignment proposed by Principal Lindley that required the staff to act like monkeys. Ms. Haynes objected to performing that portion of the assignment because she felt it was culturally insensitive to Black staff. Another Black staff person also vocalized her objection to it. Principal Lindley ignored them and continued on with her instructions.’’
The suit claims Haynes was terminated at the end of the 2018-19 school year via a non-renewal notice issued about a month earlier.
Haynes seeks back pay, lost earning potential, emotional suffering and other damages from the lawsuit.