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News / Northwest

Tacoma teacher claims she wasn’t offered this job because of her age, race and sex

By Shea Johnson, The News Tribune
Published: May 22, 2023, 7:36am

TACOMA — A veteran Tacoma Public Schools teacher claims she was discriminated against because of her age, race and sex when she was passed over for a non-advertised job that went to a less-experienced colleague.

Betty Williams, who is Black and over the age of 70, sued the school district on Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court, alleging that she also faced retaliation after reporting the purported discrimination to district officials. TPS’s human resources director and the principal of Truman Middle School, where Williams worked, were also named as defendants.

“We remain committed to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusivity while implementing hiring practices that attract, retain, and support all staff,” district spokesperson Tanisha Jumper said in a statement Friday. “We take staff displacement decisions seriously and follow the fair and equitable displacement process spelled out in our collective bargaining agreements when we are required to make those decisions.”

Williams, who now works at Tacoma Online — the district’s virtual school — has primarily taught middle school social studies during her more than 25 years at TPS. Prior to the 2020-21 school year, she accepted an offer to teach at Tacoma Online, unaware that she’d lose her seniority at Truman, according to the 12-page complaint.

In May 2021, Williams was notified that she was being displaced at Truman and had been chosen for reassignment to a different middle school from a group of four other candidates, each of whom were white, the suit stated. At about the same time, she learned of an AP Human Geography position at Truman that was never posted.

That job went to someone who had also been considered for reassignment: a male colleague in his 40s with less teaching experience than Williams, according to the lawsuit.

Her colleague, who holds a master’s degree, previously attended a one-week training course to teach the class and reportedly possessed a particular credential for that subject, the suit said. Williams, who holds a doctorate in education, claimed that the training was never offered to her and that the credential credited to her colleague didn’t exist.

After Williams complained about the district’s purported discriminatory practices, she said she was no longer allowed to work overtime on after-school programs.

“The takeaway is the Tacoma school district, as an employer, has to follow the law just like all the other employers in the state,” Beverly Grant, an attorney representing Williams in this case, said in an interview. “As a public entity, they have even more of a responsibility.”

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