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Firefighter, School District Racial Discrimination Cases in the News

— September 28, 2021

A firefighter will receive an $11M settlement, and a father files a lawsuit against her school district.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said former firefighter Gerald Alston, who was employed in the Brookline, Massachusetts, district, was wrongfully terminated after complaining of a racist, hostile work environment at the department.  Now, Alston and the town’s board have reached an $11 million settlement in a legal battle that began in 2010.  The deal won’t be final until members of the board vote on it next month at the official town meeting.

Board members also extended an apology in issuing their decision, saying, “This Select Board extends to Mr. Alston our sincere apologies for the Town’s mistakes.”

In similar news, a Michigan-based school district is at the center of a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the institution after a girl came home with an unwanted haircut.  Jurnee Hoffmeyer’s father Jimmy filed the suit on her behalf.

Firefighter, School District Racial Discrimination Cases in the News
Photo by Nejc Soklič from Pexels

The seven-year-old child had asked a library employee for the haircut in March of this year.  However, her father felt they should have called him before complying.  Hoffmeyer feels the district violated the girl’s constitutional rights to wear her hair the way it the family wanted it and that she wasn’t even old enough to be making the decision without her parents’ consent.  In the same respect, the adults should have known better than to not involve the family.

Court documents state, “Jurnee’s Library Teacher, Ms. Mogg cut off [Jurnee’s] hair with the assistance and/or acquiescence of Ms. Jacobs.  This was done without permission from Jurnee or her parents.  The Defendants failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline, and supervise their employees, and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained of behavior given the improper training, customs, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees.”

Hoffmeyer feels the issue extends beyond the staff members involved.  The school should have reprimanded these staff members.  Instead, the suit indicates, the school showed “deliberate indifference” and was “obdurate” or “wanton.”

Michigan’s Civil Rights act prohibits discrimination on the basis of “religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status” in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.”  The Freedom of Information Act indicates any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information “except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.”  Hoffmeyer’s suit, overall, claims the actions of the district violated Michigan’s Civil Rights act, including: “Ethnic intimidation; Intentional infliction of emotional distress; Assault and battery,” as well as the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

The school districted responded, “We are confident that the facts will prevail given our district’s appropriate and aggressive response to the incident and the findings of the third-party investigation that was conducted.”  The investigative report stated, “On March 26, an elementary student’s hair was cut by a MPPS employee without parent knowledge and without the district administrators.” However, the investigator concluded the staff members “did not act with racial bias,” and, thus, were able to stay employed.


Brookline Reaches $11M Settlement With Former Firefighter Gerald Alston

Court Sides With Ex-Firefighter In Brookline Racism Case – Again

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