A high school teacher who alleges she was transferred in 2018 to a lower-paying job in retaliation for speaking out against alleged racial discrimination against black female students by two of their male peers and for supporting student discussions of topical issues is suing the William S. Hart Union High School District.
Kimberly Forbes maintains in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that she was wrongfully stripped of her job as director of Valencia High’s award-winning video production studio and reassigned to a position teaching English that pays her less money.
Forbes, who is black, alleges retaliation, race and gender discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the complaint filed Friday. She is seeking unspecified damages.
WHUHSD Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Until her transfer to the English teaching position in May 2018, Forbes taught video production courses and directed the certificate program in Valencia High’s Practical Arts Department, the suit states. As adviser to the school’s Black Student Union, she assisted in producing an award-winning documentary about the history of the N-word in response to an Internet video that depicted several Valencia High students chanting the epithet, according to her court papers, which say the school’s black student population in 2017-18 was 3.4 percent.
Forbes was reprimanded for allowing students to produce a Valentine’s Day video in February 2018 that depicted a same-gender couple kissing, according to the suit, which says the project was later canceled because it made the vice principal feel “uncomfortable.”
Forbes says she was also reprimanded for not censoring a Valencia High senior who produced a public service announcement related to local student participation in a March 2018 national protest against gun violence that took place a month after a mass shooting of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
In October 2015, several black female students in Forbes’ video production class complained that a male student was groping them without their consent, the suit states. After Forbes reported the male student to the principal, the pupil went to the plaintiff’s home and vandalized her car, according to her court papers.
The plaintiff alleges that the school administration agreed to move the student from Forbes’ class on the condition she grant him an A for his course grade. She reluctantly agreed to do so to protect herself and her students from additional violence and harassment, according to her lawsuit.
In February 2018, black female students complained of similar harassment by another male student, who forced the girls to look at pornography and said he wanted to have sex with one of them while wearing a Confederate flag “to make my family proud,” the suit alleges.
After Forbes reported the second male student to her supervisors, the administration transferred him to another period of Forbes’ class, but he continued harassing the same female pupils, the suit states.
When Forbes was transferred to the English teaching position, she was told it was because she did not have the proper certification, and she was replaced by a white male teacher with less experience, the suit alleges.
Forbes later suffered “an acute psychiatric event … after years of being punished by her supervisors for reporting racial and sexual hostility in the classroom, and for assisting students in exercising their protected free-speech rights,” according to her court papers.
Forbes continues to suffer from “severe emotional distress,” her suit states.
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