A jury has awarded Charles Sherman Neal, of the Boston Community Leadership Academy, $1.7 million after he repeatedly raised concerns about being discriminated against.
Neal was initially hired at the school part-time in 2008 to start a gym program. He was given a permanent teaching position in 2012, after he had raised concerns that he thought the school’s hiring practices were racially discriminatory. Throughout the year, he continued to complain about his treatment in comparison to white teachers.
Neal even filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
He noticed that the school had installed surveillance cameras in the gymnasium where he teaches his classes, yet none of the white teachers at the school had cameras in their classrooms, according to court documents. The school also installed the cameras without notifying him first, which was a violation of district policy.
While he was teaching, another adult was dispatched to monitor the girls’ locker room, a step that wasn’t taken when a white man substituted for him. In 2014, the school took two months to reactivate his swipe card, so he had to get buzzed in every time he entered the building.
Eventually, school district leaders fired him in 2016 citing “incapacity” as one of their reasons.
“What the Boston Public Schools did to him is despicable,” said the teacher’s attorney, Ilir Kavaja. “This is a man who had cancer and overcame it and went to work right away and he was put through the wringer. … They had no basis to believe that this person couldn’t fulfill the obligations of his job. They just got tired of his complaints and didn’t want to deal with him.”
After five years of legal battle, a jury found that Neal was wrongfully terminated.
The jury found that the headmaster at BCLA and other school officials retaliated against him for exercising his legal right to raise concerns about workplace discrimination without fear of retribution. The jury did not agree with the discrimination claims however.
“I think they mishandled the whole thing from the beginning to the end,” said Kavaja, adding that the school system often didn’t follow its own policies and procedures. “As a kid in Cambridge, his teachers protected him when he was discriminated against and he wanted to do the same for his students.”