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Frisco ISD teacher sues district: Alvin Jackson suit claims racial discrimination
Alvin Jackson, a teacher at Frisco High School, is suing the Frisco Independent School District for racial discrimination. Jackson's contract was not renewed for the upcoming school year -- a move he feels was made because of his skin color. Frisco ISD has categorically denied Jackson's allegations.
Jackson, who began working at Frisco High School in September 2010, is the only black coach and core-subject teacher at the high school. At Frisco High, Jackson teaches world history and coaches the girls' track and field team.
A disagreement between Jackson and boys' track and field coach Sam Reiter created a racially hostile environment for Jackson, the suit alleges. The dispute related to the fact that the boys' and girls' track and field teams had traditionally practiced together in the past, but Reiter wanted the teams to practice separately after Jackson arrived.
"Mr. Jackson informed [Cade] Smith [associate principal at Frisco High School] that he believed the difficulties were race related," the complaint, filed by Joe Kendall of Kendall Law Group on behalf of Jackson, states. "During this meeting, Mr. Smith instructed Mr. Jackson not to contact Human Resources, but instead Mr. Smith said that he would handle the issues."
In an evaluation by Smith following the dispute, Jackson "suddenly performed below expectations in a majority of the areas," the complaint alleges. Evaluations prior to Jackson's complaint to Smith revealed no areas of concern, however.
Jackson requested a second evaluation, which was performed by Kenny Durand of Wakeland High School. The second evaluation rated Jackson proficient in all areas but one.
Despite the positive second evaluation, Jackson was informed earlier this year that his contract wouldn't be renewed for the 2012-2013 school year. At a Jan. 31 meeting with Principal Sylvia Palacios, Jackson alleges Palacios told him he was not a "good fit" for the school and asked Jackson to resign in exchange for a letter of recommendation.
Jackson later met with Dr. Linda Bass, assistant superintendent for human resources, and Dr. Rick Reedy, superintendent. According to Kendall's complaint filing, Bass told Jackson that he didn't provide any evidence to support his allegations, although the suit alleges she admitted she didn't contact any of the individuals who Jackson cited as witnesses.
In a statement, Kendall, Jackson's attorney, said Jackson was fired for one reason: his race.
"Al Jackson ran headlong into a 'good ol' boy' network, plain and simple," Kendall said. "Someone in Frisco decided they could push him out because of the color of his skin. The law -- and common decency -- says you can't do that."
Shana Wortham, executive director of communications for Frisco ISD, said the school district disagrees with Jackson's claims.
"The lawsuit filed by Mr. Alvin Jackson and the press release from his attorney are unfortunate and surprising for several reasons," Wortham said. "First, Mr. Jackson chose not to complete the appeal process for the proposed non-renewal of his contract...Second, Mr. Jackson and his legal counsel fail to mention that the independent hearing officer issued a recommendation that will be presented to the Board in June for consideration and action."
Wortham said that Jackson tried to dismiss his appeal for the non-renewal of his contract after a public hearing and before the independent hearing officer issued an opinion. This was done, Wortham said, to "avoid a decision from the hearing officer."
"The independent hearing officer found that the Frisco ISD's administration proposed non-renewal of the professional term contract of Mr. Jackson is justified and should be approved and upheld," she said. "Further, the hearing officer found Mr. Jackson's appeal of the proposed non-renewal should be denied."
Jackson's lawsuit also alleges facts never presented to the district or in the course of the independent hearing according to Wortham, who called Jackson's lawsuit "blatantly false, misleading and the foundation of a frivolous lawsuit against the district."
"The actions make it appear that Mr. Jackson and his legal counsel are attempting to circumvent the process outlined by the Texas Education Code by filing a frivolous lawsuit against the district and trying the case in the media under false pretenses," she said.
The decision to not renew Jackson's contract was based on documented in-classroom performance issues which were presented in Jackson's public hearing, Wortham said.
Wortham's claims are bolstered by the fact that the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) didn't find sufficient evidence to investigate Jackson's claims. Instead, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter, allowing Jackson's lawsuit to begin. The EEOC stated that it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes."