The Black former dean of students at San Dimas High School is suing the Bonita Unified School District, alleging she was forced to quit in 2020 because of harassment and for the backlash she received after advocating for a student disciplinary system more fair to Black students.
Andrea Poma’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges that one SDHS teacher called her a “Black bitch.” Her claims include wrongful constructive termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation and harassment.
Poma seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Wednesday. A BUSD representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Poma was San Dimas High’s dean of students in August 2017 and as the campus’ only Black administrator she was “subjected to a pattern of ongoing harassment because of her race and because of her advocacy for African-American students at SDHS who were disproportionately subjected to a severe and punitive disciplinary system,” the suit states.
When Poma sought to implement an alternative disciplinary policy she believed was “fair and restorative rather than racist and punitive,” senior administrators told the plaintiff “in no uncertain terms that she would not be supported if she continued to violate SDHS culture, a culture that smacked of racism…,” the suit states.
Poma was targeted for racial harassment led by two teachers supported and backed by SDHS and BUSD administrators, according to the suit. One of the two teachers referred to Poma as a “Black bitch” and both sought to belittle and undermine the plaintiff with “repeated lies and false accusations,” the suit states.
The two teachers were openly insubordinate to Poma, ignored her disciplinary policies and enforced their own “separate, unequal, and racist system of discipline” and bullied other teachers into signing a racially motivated petition to remove Poma from her job, according to the suit.
Poma repeatedly complained about the harassment to three SDHS principals, but they did nothing in response, nor did the school’s senior director of student services, the suit states.
When Poma took her complaints to Matthew Wien, the BUSD’s assistant superintendent of education, still nothing was done and the district punished the plaintiff by refusing to promote her to an open assistant principal position for which she was qualified, the suit states.
The BUSD also paid Poma less what her white counterparts received for substantially similar work and the district threatened to demote her, according to the suit.
Poma took an extended medical leave in the fall of 2019 due to the severe stress, anxiety and depression that she experienced because of the ongoing harassment, the suit states.
When Poma returned to work in November 2019, she sent one of the three SDHS principals an email addressing the allegedly discriminatory conduct both she and minority students were being subjected to, the suit states.
The principal “acknowledged the racism and discrimination to both Poma and SDHS students,” but said he was “worried about moving too fast with any corrective action because of SDHS staff who may revolt against him,” according to the suit.
Poma was forced to resign last June due to the ongoing “harassment, discrimination, personal threats and retaliation that BUSD allowed to continue unabated for over three years,” the suit states.
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