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Virginia school officials “severely harassed and discriminated against” an assistant principal who raised concerns about mandatory “anti-racism” teacher training, a new lawsuit alleges.
Former public school administrator Emily Mais is suing the Albermarle County School Board, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), accusing the school board of creating a racially hostile work environment that ultimately forced her to leave her job in September 2021.
The school officials “constructively discharged” Mais by creating a “hostile environment where they repeatedly dismissed her complaints,” ADF said in a press release.
Some of the “racially harassing and abusive comments” that her colleagues made about her included calling her, “that white racist b****” and “that two-faced racist b****,” according the lawsuit.
“Instead of training faculty members to embrace students of all races, Albemarle County school officials are using a curriculum that promotes racial discrimination,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights. “The training sets up a classic Catch-22: It encourages all staff members to ‘speak their truth,’ but when a white person like Emily raises concerns about the divisive content, she is deemed a racist in need of further ‘anti-racism’ instruction.”
“Emily believes every person is made in the image of God and entitled to equal treatment and respect and refuses to participate in using harmful ideology to indoctrinate students, teachers, or staff,” Anderson added.
Mais, who formerly served as an elementary art teacher for seven years, had raised concerns about the Agnor-Hurt Elementary School’s “anti-racism” teacher training calling for differential treatment based on race, the lawsuit alleges.
That training is based on the book “Courageous Conversations About Race,” ADF said, and attributes both positive and negative characteristics to people based on race, such as teaching that only the “dominant race” (white people) can commit acts of racism.
“The district is using the curriculum even though the Virginia superintendent of public instruction has expressly recognized that the ‘Courageous Conversations’ book promotes inherently divisive concepts that are harmful to students and staff members and is an example of materials based on critical race theory that are being used in Virginia schools,” ADF said in a press release.
The reported vitriol against Mais began when she spoke up in a racial training session and accidentally said “colored people” instead of “people of color,” according to the lawsuit.
She immediately corrected herself and apologized, the lawsuit said, but Sheila Avery, a teacher’s aide who is black, reportedly verbally attacked Mais for this “slip of the tongue” and accused Mais of “speaking like old racists who told people of color to go to the back of the bus.”
Avery would later also tell Mais that “people of color” was not an appropriate phrase, the lawsuit notes.
“Ms. Avery’s verbal abuse was so severe that Ms. Mais received multiple communications during the training session and following it from other staff members expressing their support for her and their alarm at how unprofessional Ms. Avery’s response to her was,” the lawsuit said.
Mais discovered later that Avery and her friends were “openly slandering” her at work, “cursing about her and calling her vulgar names at work, telling other employees she was a racist and that she intentionally demeaned black people, and trying to turn other employees against her.”
And during a disciplinary meeting with school officials, the lawsuit said, she was told that those white teachers who were afraid to speak out against the anti-racism policy and training “should be afraid to speak if what they were thinking was not ‘appropriate.'”
Mais understood this to mean that “the Division was in fact policing white participants’ speech and was prepared to retaliate against any criticism of its approach.”
The lawsuit was filed last week in the Albemarle County Circuit Court.
Nine parents and eight minors also alleged in a December lawsuit that Albemarle County Public Schools was indoctrinating students with an ideology that “teaches children to affirmatively discriminate based on race.”
ADF also represented the plaintiffs in this case, which repeatedly refers to Albemarle County Public Schools’ “Anti-Racism Policy” — a policy with a stated purpose of eliminating “all forms of racism” in the school system.
“Defendants claim that they want to stand against racism,” the lawsuit said. “But rather than eliminate racism from the school district, defendants have done the opposite.”
“Far from exploring ideas or philosophies surrounding justice and reconciliation, that ideology fosters racial division, racial stereotyping, and racial hostility,” the lawsuit continued. “So does the policy. Through the policy, defendants incorporate these pathological teachings into the school district’s programming and treat students differently based on race in direct conflict with Supreme Court precedent and the Virginia Constitution and state law.”