Press "Enter" to skip to content

School district settles lawsuit with former West Gadsden High teacher

At a special School Board meeting last Tuesday (July 10), the board agreed to accept the Superintendent’s mediation of a lawsuit brought by district teacher Jonnie Clarke.

The school district settled for an undisclosed amount with Clarke, an art teacher who was pulled out of her classroom and forced to serve as a hall monitor while seated at a student desk by Principal James Mills at West Gadsden High School in November of 2015.

Clarke claimed she was subject to disparate treatment; different terms and conditions of her employment; and held to a different standard because of her age, race and gender. School District Superintendent Roger Milton and School Board Chair Steve Scott declined to comment on the settlement. Ronte Harris, the president of the Gadsden County Classroom Teachers’ Association, was happy for Clarke, but was disappointed this case even had to go to mediation.

Harris said the Clarke lawsuit is typical of the climate for teachers in Gadsden County, in which the Superintendent and School Board don’t take immediate corrective action against administrators who are reported to have acted outside of the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union. Harris is hopeful this environment will change in the next school year. But while acknowledging that the climate for teachers is getting slightly better in the district, he claimed there still is a culture of disrespect for teacher working conditions.

Harris said this culture hurts with teacher retention and recruitment, and, more importantly, negatively impacts the learning environment of the district’s students.

By Randall Lieberman