A former assistant principal has filed a lawsuit alleging he faced discrimination and retaliation at the Phillip’s Academy Charter School.
Lavon Smith, who served as assistant principal from July to September in 2020, alleges he faced discrimination and a hostile work environment while working at the charter school’s Madison Street Campus in Paterson.
Smith alleges six weeks into the job, four members of the administration were allowed to work from home.
“The only administration team members required to be physically present were Mr. Smith and Dean [Kevin] Wright, both of whom were hired only recently and were African-American,” claims the lawsuit. He raised concerns about a large portion of the administrative team working from home.
Regina Lauricella, principal at the school, allegedly told him, she “could not understand how a person could take a job and expect to work from home.”
Lauricella was approved to work from home, according to the lawsuit.
Smith was also subjected to “disparate treatment” when he requested bereavement leave after two of his family members died from Covid-19. He requested permission to attend a funeral on July 24, 2020. Lauricella allegedly never responded to Smith’s request and instead sent him an invite for a leadership meeting on the funeral day.
On August 21, 2020, Smith told Lauricella another family member had died and he needed the weekend to grieve with his family. The next day, he allegedly received 15 emails and a meeting invite for Sunday at 8 a.m.
Smith objected to “not being permitted uninterrupted time over the weekend to be with his family” to be told by Lauricella she no longer supported him as school lead, according to the lawsuit.
Smith also alleges other Black staff were subjected to unequal treatment. For example, the campus has two special education teachers. The Black teacher had 11 special education students while the white teacher had 4, according to the lawsuit.
Smith raised the issue with Lauricella. He was told the schedule would need to be adjusted.
His lawsuit also claims the school improperly disposed of a crack pipe that was found on school grounds.
Smith also alleges students were not adequately screened for Covid-19. Temperatures were taken, but students were not required to complete Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey. He claims the person responsible for Covid-19 screening was not on-site.
Smith was fired without an explanation on September 11, 2020, states the lawsuit filed on September 13, 2021. He is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.