Dallas ISD executive, Jennifer Span, sues former school district over racial discrimination

Dallas ISD Jennifer Span
Dallas ISD executive director Jennifer Span filed a lawsuit last June against the Enlarged City School District of Troy, her former employer in New York, and its school board.

Span, who is over DISD’s Roosevelt High School feeder pattern, contends in an original filing in the U.S. District Court of New York that her civil rights were violated after facing discrimination and retaliation because she is black. The suit was filed a month before Span began work in DISD and seeks monetary damages against the Troy school district and seven individual board members. Claims against the board members have since been dismissed for lack of evidence.

Span is joined in the suit by another plaintiff, former Troy assistant superintendent Nichelle Rivers, who claims she was racially discriminated against when her contract was nonrenewed. A jury trial is set for early next year unless there is successful remediation, according to court documents.

Span has not commented.

Here’s a quick rundown of the case involving Span:

Span became principal at Doyle Middle School in the Troy school district in July 2009 after serving as an assistant principal at the campus. According to her complaint, the campus was known for having significant discipline problems and low academic performance.

The complaint states that she was not permitted a leave of absence from her assistant principal position to prepare for the principal job, while a white male coworker was permitted the benefit. It also notes that she was not given a mentor when she began as principal, although a white male co-worker who had began serving as principal was given a paid mentor for six months. The complaint also contends that she was denied many resources necessary to perform her duties, such as an adequate number of hall monitors and funding for staff for Saturday detention.

The complaint includes several other examples in which Span alleges discrimination. It also contends that she was denied multiple requests to reassign staffers who she felt were functioning poorly.

In January 2010, Span was removed as principal at the school, allegedly because of parent complaints. She was reassigned as an assistant principal at an elementary school in the district. She took the post in lieu of termination, the complaint states. It goes on to say that she also could not apply her time as principal towards a tenure requirement for assistant principal, as other individuals were allowed to do. She filed a “Notice of Claim” against the Troy School District.

Several months after her removal, Span began “experiencing anxiety attacks, lost (sic) of sleep and weight gain due to the stress of dealing with the Troy School Board. She saw her doctor, who diagnosed her with severe clinical depression,” according to court documents. In June 2010, she took two weeks off due to her diabetes and depression, the record states. She was denied tenure by the school board.

The school board sent her a letter giving alleged reasons for the denial, according to court documents. They include that she “failed to maintain consistent discipline and control over the school building environments…exhibited unprofessional behavior in your interaction with a member of the Board of Education…were absent for fourteen days out of a three and one-half month period…failed to establish adequate systems for communication throughout your building.”

In August 2010, she was told her employment would end in October 2010. Span submitted documentation to take time off for diabetes and depression. She was not approved for the leave and was terminated in October 2010.

Span oversees the Roosevelt High School feeder pattern in her DISD position. Roosevelt has been in the news lately involving the termination of the school’s principal, Leicha Shaver, who is expected to appeal.

Read the original lawsuit filing below; the Troy school district’s response; and the judgement dismissing the case against the Troy school board members for lack of evidence.

<Now my first question is why was the white guy afforded resources such as a 6 month mentor when Ms. Span was not and why were her recommendations for better staff ignored? Sounds racist to me.. Somebody up there in Troy, NY has some explaining to do.. To a judge. I wouldn't be suprised if this isn't simply settled eventually out of court.>