Former Sabal Palm Elementary principal sues Leon County School Board

Former Sabal Palm Elementary principal sues Leon County School Board
Posted at 10:30 AM, Dec 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-12 22:02:26-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - A former Sabal Palm Elementary principal has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Leon County School Board retaliated against her after she reported unlawful and discriminatory employment practices.

Ann T. Johnson, who asked the Leon County Circuit Court for a jury trial, filed a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Her suit, which seeks $15,000 in damages, maintains that the school system treats black teachers and white teachers differently in deciding which teachers to retain.

Johnson's lawsuit said that since the 59-year-old African American was hired by the school system in December 1981 she had had an "exemplary" and award-winning career there and received positive performance evaluations.

She held positions that included teacher, department head, assistant principal and, beginning in, 2006, principal.

She retired in May 2016, alleging in the suit that she was forced to do so because of a continuing hostile environment "based on her race and her reporting of discriminatory practices."

Sabal Palm has a high rate of poverty among its students, her lawsuit said. It said while Johnson was principal, Sabal Palm earned a "B" school grade for four years and a "C" for three years.

Through her time there, the lawsuit says that Johnson made the board aware about a number of concerns regarding administrative concerns at Sabal Palms. According to the lawsuit, all of her concerns were dismissed. 

Johnson said that in May 2013 she attended a staff meeting with three school district employees who are white and was told to fire all of Sabal Palm's non-tenured teachers.

She said she was given a copy of a test that had been given in December of 2012 or January of 2013 that was the basis for firing the teachers. 

However, Johnson's lawsuit said that she was told to retain some of those teachers whose students had performed equally poorly on the same test and that all of those teachers were white.

At the time, Johnson expressed concern about the treatment of black teachers and white teachers in evaluating which could keep their jobs.

Not long after that, Johnson was removed from the duties as principal and reassigned to be a K-12 coordinator for Leon County Schools, a position her suit described as a two-step demotion.

Another employee, a white male, was brought in as principal of Sabal Palm. The lawsuit says that the school's grade dropped the year the new principal came in. 

The lawsuit asserts that during that time, Johnson saw other Leon County Schools employees engage in discriminatory evaluations of black teachers. When she continued to express her concerns, the suit says that some employees retaliated, subjecting her to a hostile work environment.

The suit says that the hositlity led Johnson to retire in May 2016.

School district spokesman Chris Petley said "we do not comment on open litigation."

"I am unaware if we have officially been served yet," he said. "The three individuals named in the suit have retired and are no longer with our district."

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