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Allegations of Reverse Discrimination Threaten to Undermine Columbus City Schools Gifted Program

Lawsuits alleging racial discrimination in the workplace are not particularly unusual, but one such suit in Columbus, Ohio is drawing attention because of its emphasis on reverse discrimination. In the lawsuit (available HERE), two Caucasian Columbus City Schools employees are suing the school board in addition to several individual employees who are nearly all African American. Among the details in the complaint are allegations of a hostile work environment, emotional distress and the loss of opportunities for promotion.

Discrimination%2040134433-001.jpgThe two plaintiffs are Elizabeth Gasior and Juli Knecht. Each has been employed by the school district for several years, mainly within the Gifted and Talented Department. Gasior alleges that after more than 20 years of employment and overall positive employee reviews, things began to change under the directorship of Toia Robinson. After Robinson was made supervisor of the Gifted and Talented Department in the 2008-2009 school year, Gasior says that alterations within the department began to make it difficult for her to perform her responsibilities effectively. Further, she says Robinson showed a tendency to make false performance statements and began to remove her from certain department activities.

As for Knecht, the long time district employee alleges that after interviewing for a regional coordinator position and ranking well before the hiring panel, her name was simply removed from contention in favor of an African American woman who did not possess her professional qualifications. Later, Robinson, in collusion with other officials, is alleged to have falsified interview board documentation to make it look as though the African American candidate had been the preferred interviewee all along.

Both women believe that their careers as educators have been adversely affected through a pervasive pattern of reverse discrimination to which other district employees have also alluded in conversations. Repeated complaints made by both women to the board of education went unresolved for months before the decision was made to file a civil complaint. A resolution to the situation will likely not be reached for some time, which is likely to prompt the concern of many parents whose children are enrolled as students in the Gifted and Talented Department.