PHILADELPHIA — Four white Philadelphia teachers filed federal race-bias lawsuits that accuse a black principal of creating a hostile work environment and suggesting they were unfit to teach black children.
The teachers work at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School, a predominantly black elementary school that has a recent history of racial tension. Their lawsuits say that a former principal had them read an article that said “white teachers do not have the ability to teach African-American students.’’
The teachers also allege that the principal, Charles Ray III, and others undermined their work by reprimanding them, randomly changing their room assignments, and letting black teachers ignore rules that their white counterparts had to follow. Ray also retaliated when they filed union grievances, they said.
“Charles Ray III consistently stated that he had a relationship with top school officials indicating that his conduct was part of an approved policy or was part of a pattern of practices sanctioned and supported by ‘higher authority,’ ’’ the suits allege.
The teachers — Nicole Boyd, Debra McKibben Marenbach, Colleen Yarnell, and Marta Ciccimaro — filed the lawsuits last week, demanding more than $150,000 each.
The school district had no immediate comment, spokeswoman Shana Kemp said.
Kemp said she was not immediately authorized to say if Ray still works for the district.
The surrounding East Falls neighborhood is largely white and, in some sections, wealthy. Residents include former governor Ed Rendell and former US senator Arlen Specter. But many white families in the area send their children to private schools.