TUSD Employee Files Racial Discrimination Claim

KVOA-Tucson, Aug. 12

An academic specialist has alleged she was “shunned” by colleagues after alerting supervisors to a memo that told teachers to single out black students for the next year’s classroom placement.

Charlotte Brown, an academic specialist for the African American Studies Department, has filed a racial discrimination and harassment claim against Tucson Unified School District.

The claim stems from a May 2003 memo that Reynolds Elementary School’s office manager wrote about making classroom assignments for the 2003-04 school year.

Estella Zavala, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the district doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The memo instructed teachers to identify student academic levels with different-colored notes and to “print AA for African American and a red circle for behavioral problem” in the corner.

No other racial or ethnic groups were mentioned. About 10 percent of the roughly 500 students at the school are black.

The principal wrote a letter to parents describing the memo as an “abhorrent action” and promising mandatory sensitivity training on discrimination and harassment. The school’s staff members took part in workshops on cultural diversity last fall.

The claim was filed in February as a precursor to a lawsuit. A draft settlement agreement for $75,000 was pulled from the agenda at the school board’s meeting Tuesday.

Attorneys for Brown said they haven’t seen a written draft settlement proposal and, based on the board action, are proceeding as if the board is not willing to accept a settlement.

The claim also alleges that teachers at the school kept black students from receiving academic help, counseling and mentoring from Brown last school year because they blamed her for publicity about the memo.

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