Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post reported on Wednesday May 16 that federal court has ruled that a white teacher in a predominantly black school was subjected to a racially hostile work environment.
The case involved teacher Elizabeth Kandrac, who was verbally abused by black students at Brentwood Middle School in North Charleston, South Carolina. Despite Ms. Kandrac’s frequent complaints, school officials did nothing to stop the harassment. School official said the racially charged profanity was simply part of the students’ culture and that if Kandrac couldn’t handle cursing she was in the wrong school.
Kandrac finally filed a complaint with the EEOC and ultimately filed a lawsuit against the Charleston County School District. The case was tried and the jury found that the school was a racially hostile environment to teach in and that the school district retaliated against Kandrac for complaining about it.
U.S. District Judge David C. Norton recently affirmed the verdict after the defendants asked for a new trial.
The judge found, however, that the jury’s finding of $307,500 in damages for lost income and emotional distress was not supported by the evidence and a new trial would have to be held to determine the appropriate measure of damages. Kandrac and the school district end up settling the case for $200,000.
The important point of this case for students, parents and society is the idea that a particular group of people can be allowed to behave in a grossly uncivil and threatening way by virtue of their racial “culture.” In this case, the black children of Brentwood were allowed to behave the way did because vulgar language was considered normal for their culture.
The attorney for the school district told jurors that the kids heard this same language at home and there was “no magic pill” to make them behave. The students called Ms. Kandrac many shocking things including; white b—-, white m—- f—-, white c–, white a——, white ho. They also threw books and desks at her and punctured her bicycle tires. Other white teachers and students corroborated Kandrac’s account, including a male war veteran who testified he would rather return to Vietnam than to Brentwood.
Ms. Kandrac’s attorney argued that the repeated use of “white” made these slurs racist in nature. School officials countered that because black students were equally abusive to other blacks, the language wasn’t inherently racist.
Although Ms. Kandrac lost her job, the real losers are our children who are deprived of a quality education by the actions of a tyrannical few. The children who hurled the insults also lose because they are being denied the important life lesson of the expectation of civilized behavior as a result of the school administrations’ failure to take action.
If you have been the victim of harassment in the workplace, please contact a Columbia South Carolina discrimination attorney at Louthian Law Firm to discuss your situation.