A black superintendent in Missouri faces a discrimination lawsuit after he allegedly argued against hiring an applicant for a top level position based solely on the person’s race.
Lee’s Summit School District Director of Technology Amy Gates filed the lawsuit against the district this week, alleging Superintendent Dennis Carpenter violated several school policies while serving on a panel interviewing three women for an open position – executive director of public relations, WDAF reports.
Two of the women, including Gates, were white, while the third applicant was black. The lawsuit contends Carpenter argued against the black candidate because he said, “The Establishment is not ready for the two faces of this district to be African American.”
Carpenter is the district’s first black superintendent, and he’s come under fire for several reasons, from a controversial image of him flipping off the camera that appeared on social media to a new diversity training initiative for staff, according to the news site.
He’s also in the midst of negotiating a contract extension, which the local teachers union opposes.
The Lee’s Summit chapter of the National Education Association wrote a strongly worded email to the school board earlier this month urging members to send Carpenter packing, mostly because of the diversity training.
The email described the training as “controversial” and claimed it “puts its focus on ‘white privilege’ as a means to draw attention to diverse bias.”
The union wrote it wants the district to focus on student achievement for all minority students, “not just focused on our black population,” KCUR reports.
In Gates’ lawsuit, she alleges race was a big factor for Carpenter when the district hired its spokesperson, and he clearly did not want the high-profile position to share his complexion.
The lawsuit quotes Carpenter’s comments as evidence.
“I will not hire a black person in this position, people are waiting for me to make that mistake … can you image me walking into a BRT (business roundtable) meeting with a black female as the second face of the district,” the superintendent said, according to the lawsuit.
Gates initially filed a discrimination complaint about the situation, which prompted the school board to hire an outside agency to conduct an independent investigation. That investigation concluded that Carpenter violated the spirit of the district’s anti-discrimination policy but not the policy itself, WDAF reports.
Gates reportedly requested information about the independent investigation and the district provided her with two documents eight days after the request. She’s since resubmitted the request for all documents pertaining to the issue.
District officials confirmed that they received the lawsuit, but declined to comment about it.
“The Lee’s Summit School District acknowledges receipt of a lawsuit brought upon the district in regards to a Sunshine Law request. As such, we will be defending the lawsuit in court, not in the media at this time,” the district wrote in a prepared statement.
In a previous statement, the board of education wrote that it voted to move forward with extending the superintendent’s contract and “hopes to complete an agreement with Dr. Carpenter in the near future,” KCUR reports.