Subjected to a diversity-focused witch hunt featuring persistent race-based shaming and verbal abuse, as well as groundless demotions and professional harassment despite decades of excellent work, Lois Herrera, Jaye Murray, and Laura Feijoo are seeking a total of $90 million from Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and the city for compensatory damages, loss of earning capacity, and emotional pain and suffering.
“Under Carranza’s leadership, [the Department of Education] has swiftly and irrevocably silenced, sidelined and punished plaintiffs and other Caucasian female DOE employees on the basis of their race, gender and unwillingness to accept their other colleagues’ hateful stereotypes about them,” the suit, filed on Tuesday in New York state Supreme Court, reads.
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Carranza wasted no time launching his reign of terror after he was hired in April 2018, according to the suit. “If you draw a paycheck from DOE … get on board with my equity platform or leave,” he reportedly told his employees.
Told to “take a step back and yield to colleagues of color” and “recognize that values of white culture are supremacist,” Herrera, a 33-year veteran of city schools, claims she was stripped of her title and demoted – despite being publicly praised for her performance the previous year – after she was held responsible for the racial inequities in the school system. Humiliated by her unqualified replacement, a black man promoted over her without so much as an interview, Herrera was subjected to a string of racist indignities that included a professional workshop where a black presenter decried the “‘white middle class values’ that were plaguing society,” framing the struggle as “us vs. them” – with Herrera the unfortunate “them” in the equation.
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Despite Murray’s role in leading anti-bias programs during her 13 years in the system, she, too, was demoted – partially for the unpardonable sin of being from Westchester, a wealthy white suburb she realized the management expressly reviled after being forced to watch a professional development video that blamed black poverty on the proliferation of white suburbs. Her newly-appointed black supervisors forced her to report her work every 30 minutes to harass and degrade her, she claims, and even used her disability to humiliate her.
Feljoo, who had risen to supervising superintendent over 30 years with the schools, was snubbed for a promotion, which instead went to a black woman so unqualified for the role that a “training period” had to be instituted in order to hurriedly license her. Once licensed, she proceeded to remove all white women from her subordinate ranks, further pushing Feljoo down the ladder.
Carranza has denied the women were demoted because they are white, calling the lawsuit’s allegations “absolutely not true.”
“The children in New York City – 70 percent of whom are black and brown children – get to see senior level administrators that look like them. What’s wrong with that?” he said, pointing out his diversity hires are “extremely-well qualified individuals who at any moment could get tapped to lead their own school system anywhere across this country.”