School employees sue over alleged discrimination
Teachers and secretaries, past and current, claim Largo High’s black principal treated them unfairly
A dozen current and former Prince George’s County Public School employees recently filed a multi-million lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the school system and the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association, alleging racial discrimination at work.
The $50 million mass action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Nov. 22 by 12 former and current county school teachers and secretaries against the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association and Prince George’s County Public Schools.
The lawsuit alleges that Largo High School Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus, a black woman who took the job in 2007, has targeted white teachers because of their race and in an effort to force the white teachers out of the school and black teachers and employees who stood up for them.
The lawsuit also alleges that Simpson-Marcus exhibited inappropriate language — including name-calling — and attempted to fire or transfer some employees.
Simpson-Marcus said in an e-mail Friday that she was referring questions to county schools.
Darrell Pressley, a Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman, said Friday that county schools have received a copy of the lawsuit but because of pending litigation he cannot comment.
Two of the 12 plaintiffs are current employees at Largo High; eight are no longer at Largo High; one is a teacher at Central High School in Capitol Heights; and one is a teacher at Crossland High School in Temple Hills, according to the lawsuit.
Ten of the 12 plaintiffs are black and two are white, according to the lawsuit. Two of the plaintiffs are men and 10 are women.
Largo High English teacher Venida Marshall, 64, of Suitland said Friday that she stands by everything written in the lawsuit.
“I totally support and back everything that is in the lawsuit,” said Marshall, a black woman who has been at Largo since 2006.
Darlene Ball-Rice, 49, of Upper Marlboro said Monday the discrimination that Simpson-Marcus is alleged to have committed against blacks and whites and mostly older staff members became worse when some people spoke in defense of others.
“If you speak up about it, she works on having you transferred out,” said Ball-Rice, who is no longer at Largo High. “It seems that anyone that we defended… then you became her target.”
Nicole Turner, 48, of Landover, a secretary at Largo, and Vallie B. Dean, 66, of Upper Marlboro, a business education teacher at Largo, both declined to comment. Both women are black.
Marshall, Turner and Dean are three of the 12 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit.
Bryan A. Chapman of the Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman in Washington, D.C., who is the attorney representing the 12 plaintiffs named in suit, said he foresees an “indefinite number” of others also filing lawsuits, but did not know when.
“Each person’s experience is different and unique — it tells of a common theme,” Chapman said. “It seemed to be a goal to eliminate these white teachers from [Prince George’s] County public schools.”
The lawsuit also names Jimelatice Gilbert-Thomas with the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association, who was to have advocated for a white, male teacher at Largo High who was allegedly harassed by Simpson-Marcus. According to the lawsuit, Gilbert-Thomas allegedly only pretended to advocate for the white, male teacher because she was attempting to recruit Simpson-Marcus to join Gilbert-Thomas’ home-based communication business.
Chapman said he expects a response from the school system in mid-December, about 20 days after the lawsuit was filed.
Donald Briscoe, president of the Prince George’s County Educators Association, did not immediate returns calls or e-mails for comment Monday.