A Black woman hired as the first dean of diversity and inclusion at a private, non-denominational school in Calabasas is suing the institution, alleging her contract was not renewed because she upset some parents by playing a video of a teen’s poem, “White Boy Privilege,” not long after the death of George Floyd.
LeRhonda Yvette Greats’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the Viewpoint School Foundation alleges civil rights violations, disparate treatment, wrongful termination, retaliation, hostile work environment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
A representative for Viewpoint School did not immediately return a call for comment.
Greats, who says she was hired as the school’s first dean of diversity and inclusion in July 2019, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Tuesday.
“This conduct appears to be a part of the norm and culture at Viewpoint, as the recitation of a … poem written by an eighth-grade boy was the sole factor in plaintiff’s termination,” the suit alleges.
Last August, during a Viewpoint School student assembly around three months after George Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis, Greats played a YouTube video of then-14-year-old Royce Mann of Atlanta, who is white, reciting his 2016 poem, “White Boy Privilege,” according to the suit.
After the presentation, some Viewpoint parents were so angry that they demanded Greats be fired, and the school “began a systematic attempt to undermine plaintiff … subjecting her to new and unreasonable amount of scrutiny in her role and utilizing the ambiguity of her job to belittle her efforts, all in an attempt to force her to resign,” the suit alleges.
Greats “stood strong” and resisted attempts to pressure her to quit even as the school forced her to have her curriculum approved, something not done with any other school director, according to her court papers.
Greats says she was told in December that her contract was not being renewed because “the school simply could not recover from the damage done at the school assembly” in August.
“As the diversity director, plaintiff was doing her job when she showed the students the YouTube video,” the suit states. “Generally, diversity directors are required to foster equity and equality, fairness and diversity across the school through community development, including creating, leading and supporting opportunities for involvement.”
The director of diversity is usually considered to be in a leadership role and given the complexity of the role, the person in it is usually given autonomy in order to best assess diversity issues a school might be facing, according to the plaintiff.
“Nevertheless, (Viewpoint) allowed pressure from parents with deep pockets on campus to be the sole reason to terminate plaintiff,” the suit alleges.
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