New York City’s Department of Education must answer in court for failing to address alleged racism at a Queens high school.
DNA Info reports that federal prosecutors filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday against the city’s Education Department.
The complaint alleges that Pan American International High School Principal Minerva Zanca targeted the school’s only three Black teachers with racist remarks and plots to destroy their careers, while the department failed to even address the situation.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that the principal compared one of the teachers to “a gorilla in a sweater with ‘f***ing nappy hair,” while mocking another teacher for having “big lips,” reports DNA Info.
Zanca is also accused of pressuring her assistant principal to give the two untenured teachers unsatisfactory ratings on their lesson plans. When the assistant principal refused, Zanca allegedly became angry that he was “sabotaging her plan” and asked security to remove him from the building.
The department received notice from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that there was evidence of discrimination. And the United Federation of Teachers reported the incidents three years ago, according to DNA Info.
Bharara said the city’s Education Department is responsible for protecting its employees’ civil rights.
He added, “It is nearly unthinkable that, in this day and age, one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the United States would allow racial discrimination and retaliation to flourish.”
New York City Law Department told the New York Daily News that it is “reviewing the complaint.”
In the meantime, a spokeswoman for the Education Department said in a statement that the department has “zero tolerance for any discrimination.”
DNA Info said Zanca retired as a principal last year and works as a part-time guidance counselor at a school in Brooklyn. Her annual salary is $55,670, according to the Daily News.