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Monday, April 21, 2014
SCHOOLS
Malverne school district sued for racial discrimination
By Lee Landor
Herald File Photo
The suit claims Malverne High School Principal James Brown favored white teachers and discriminated against former Assistant Principal Betsy Benedith.

“It is not hard to figure out that you are being discriminated against when your supervisor calls you a nigger and routinely reminds you that you are a black woman.” So opens the statement in a lawsuit brought against the Malverne Union Free School District by three black employees alleging racial discrimination.

Betsy Benedith, a former Malverne High School assistant principal whom the district let go in June despite student protests, has accused Principal James Brown, who is African American, of treating white employees more favorably in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety that favoring blacks might create.

Sherwyn Besson, formerly a full-time business teacher at the high school, claims he was subjected to increasing discrimination, resulting in the loss of his position and its replacement with a part-time position. Besson further alleged that his two children were subjected to retaliation for his complaints of discrimination.

Kenneth Smith, who taught math at the high school for five years, claims the district discriminated against him in his course assignments and access to professional development, classroom equipment and economic opportunities. The final act of discrimination, he said, was his transfer from the high school to the Howard T. Herber Middle School.

On Monday, the Herald broke the story after acquiring a copy of the 38-page civil action suit, filed Dec. 7, which details the favoritism, inequity and acts of retaliation the three colleagues claim to have suffered throughout their careers in the school district.

“We think that we have a meritorious claim,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steven Morelli, told the Herald on Monday. “We feel that these individuals have been singled out based upon their race in an adverse way. It’s a situation where there seems to be something going on in Malverne when it comes to minority teachers.”

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