Lawsuit Filed by Black NJ Teacher Alleges 'Abusive and Hostile Treatment'

A Black teacher who worked at a New Jersey Elementary School has filed a lawsuit for suffering “abusive and hostile treatment” during her time as an educator. Tammy Jordan, a second-grade teacher who worked at Larchmont Elementary School in Mount Laurel, New Jersey filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of New Jersey on May 29 against the school, the Mount Laurel Board of Education, the school’s principal, and three of her former colleagues, according to a lawsuit viewed by The North Star.

The lawsuit states that Jordan, who was hired by the district on September 1, 2016, is the first Black teacher to be hired by the Mount Laurel School District since 1990. She resigned from her position in June 2018, according to the suit. Jordan stated that while she was working at the school, she experienced “onerous, abusive and hostile” working conditions.

"Defendants have avoided hiring black, African American teachers due to the discrimination and harassment to which black, African American teachers are subjected to at Larchmont Elementary School," the suit states. "Accordingly, there are almost no black, African American teachers at Larchmont Elementary School."

While interviewing for the position as a second grade teacher at the school, Jordan had to undergo a “rigorous interview process,” which included a meeting with a school board committee, the principal, the superintendent, and the curriculum supervisor. Despite the long interview process, her white colleagues at the school stated that she only got the job because she is Black.

Jordan stated that she was treated differently from white teachers and was excluded from events, according to the lawsuit viewed by The North Star. The colleagues listed in the lawsuit, Kim Billings, Maira Medina, and Victoria Ascuitto, also refused to acknowledge Jordan. "Jordan stopped leaving her classroom, as every time she left her classroom, she was ‘subjected to abusive and hostile treatment,’" the suit read.

The defendants in the lawsuit are also accused of saying things like: “I would show you my lesson plans, but you won’t understand them anyway," and "Can you even understand me?” Jordan claims that one of her white colleagues asked her: “Do your grandchildren have the same mother?” The teacher stated in the lawsuit that she had complained about the harassment and the discrimination to the school’s principal, George Jackson, who is also Black. Jackson did not take disciplinary action against the teachers for their comments or for their behavior and told Jordan that she needs to be like the women depicted in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, which is about three African American women working at NASA facing discrimination and harassment.

Instead of taking action on Jordan’s complaints about her colleagues, Jackson told Jordan her white colleagues “don’t know what they are doing” and “they don’t know what they’re saying.” “Accordingly, Defendant, George Jackson sanctioned, condoned, allowed, and permitted the discrimination and the harassment to continue,” the lawsuit viewed by The North Star stated.

In February 2017, Medina once told Jordan that, “We don’t have time in the curriculum to teach about Black History month.” When Jordan brought this up to Jackson, he told her, “They are not ready for all of that yet.” Jordan reported the continued harassment of her colleagues to the teachers’ union and the district assistant superintendent Dr. Sharon Vitella, the lawsuit states. A few days after she reported the harassment, she was told she would no longer teach second grade and would be moved to teach first grade.

Her first grade classroom at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year had many students who had behavioral and learning problems, according to the lawsuit. Jordan’s classroom had a majority of Black students because Jackson told her he “was afraid to put African American students in the white Caucasian teachers’ classes" because they treat Black parents the same way they treat Jordan, the lawsuit states. Jackson reportedly told Jordan, “The way I was raised, white is always right.” “It was common for the Black, African American students to complain about the racist white caucasian teachers who worked at Larchmont Elementary School,” the lawsuit read.

Jordan resigned from her position at the elementary school at the end of the 2017-18 school year, the suit states. She claims she suffered “emotional pain, humiliation, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life” from her experience at the elementary school.

"Jordan’s working conditions were so onerous, abusive, and hostile that no reasonable person in the plaintiff’s shoes would have been expected to continue her employment and such that plaintiff’s decision to discontinue her employment was void of free will," the suit says. In a statement to NBC News, the Mount Laurel School District said that the allegations in Jordan’s lawsuit were “untrue.”

"We intend to vigorously defend this baseless attack on our entire school community and demonstrate that one inaccurate and false accounting is not in any way representative of the Mount Laurel Township Schools," the statement to NBC News read.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.