A former educator who was fired from the Proviso Math and Science Academy in 2006 has filed a lawsuit claiming he was the victim of racial discrimination, and unfairly held to a higher standard than his colleagues.
Richard Bryant, who is white, was suspended Sept. 1, 2006, in the wake of a police report linking him to more than $2,600 in cash that went missing from the school. Weeks later, Bryant was fired by the Proviso Township High School District school board on the recommendation of the superintendent at the time, Stan Fields.
“The aforementioned acts … constitute intentional discrimination against [Bryant] on the basis of his race, Caucasian,” Bryant claimed in his U.S. District Court filing.
Fields, who is also white, is not named as a party to the lawsuit, nor is the school board or any of its individual members. The complaint names the district as the defendant.
No criminal charges were ever filed with respect to the missing money, and Bryant denies taking it.
At the time of his dismissal, Bryant was a co-principal of the newly established magnet school, which was beginning its second year. Bryant shared administrative duties with Melvin Berry, who is black. According to the lawsuit, Bryant had complained to supervisors that Berry was harassing him. Those supervisors, whose race is not stated in the lawsuit, did not respond appropriately, according to Bryant’s claim.
“In March 2005, during a conference in St. Louis, Berry began to harass [Bryant]. Such harassment included shaking a steak knife at [Bryant] and exclaiming: ‘I ain’t gonna be nobody’s house nigger and you can’t be seen as the great white hope,'” the suit states.
According to Bryant, Berry was a less-qualified employee and was given a pass by administrators. Bryant also accuses school board President Chris Welch of cursing at him in public, and claims he was unfairly suspended in 2006 for “yelling at his African American supervisor Valorie Moore.”
The lawsuit was filed by Bryant’s attorney, Lisa Kane, on Aug. 8. No response has been filed by the district yet. Kane declined to comment on the case and Bryant did not return a phone call seeking comment.
District 209 attorney Michael DeBartolo did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Also, attempts to contact Welch regarding the suit were not successful.
As first reported in 2006, two days after Bryant was fired Berry was suspended by the same superintendent for reasons that were never made public. After serving nearly a month of paid suspension, Berry’s salary was withheld by the district. In January 2007 he was fired.