A former teacher at New Roads School in Santa Monica recently filed a lawsuit against the school claiming wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, harassment and a hostile work environment.
Tiffany Wright, who worked as a middle school Humanities and English teacher at New Roads from August 2018 until June 2021, alleged in a lawsuit that her contract was not renewed for the 2021-22 year in retaliation for her speaking out against racism within the school and the administration’s lack of effort to address it.
New Roads’ advertised focus on diversity and inclusion are among the things Wright said initially drew her to the school. Their website boasts the diversity of their staff, an emphasis on social justice and “a culture of sharing and understanding.”
However, in her complaint filed with the LA County Superior Court on Dec. 12, Wright described a very different experience through her attorney.
“At the School, Plaintiff [Wright] experienced almost the exact opposite of anti-racism, being confronted with absurd and offensive comments like ‘go back to Africa,’” it stated. “When she complained about this and the overall racism she had experienced, she was ignored, shunned, told to shut up, “eat sh*t,” and was even threatened by the School’s administrators…”
Wright said she noticed differences in the treatment of students whose families paid the full roughly $40,000 tuition – who she said were mostly white – and those who received scholarships or financial aid- primarily students of color. She said another Black female teacher was fired after refusing to change the grade of a full-paying white student
The lawsuit detailed several incidents that led Wright to complain to the administration, including a presentation from a fellow teacher which placed an image of Kamala Harris alongside one of an ape, and another in which her direct supervisor used the phrase “all lives matter,” which has been used in opposition to the Black Lives Matter Movement, in a presentation to students. The lawsuit said the supervisor later claimed to be unaware of the racist connotation of the phrase, which Wright questioned in a staff meeting.
“Plaintiff [Wright] asked how that was possible, when on the news and all-over mainstream media the phrase was being reported as a rallying cry for alt-right groups and racist Trump supporters” the lawsuit stated.
“You have to be living under a rock not to know what that statement means. It’s a dog whistle,” Wright reportedly said.
The lawsuit also said that the school disbanded its own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee after Wright and colleagues attempted to bring racism-related issues to the attention of administration.
On April 16, 2021 Wright was told her contract would not be renewed for the upcoming school year with little explanation. The complaint said her employment was “formally terminated” on June 25 after administrators learned she had discussed her departure from New Roads with her students.
Wright and her lawyer have requested a jury trial in this case and are seeking punitive damages. No court date has yet been set.