A $90 million lawsuit claims the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education embarked on a mission to purge "toxic" whiteness from the city schools, which saw Richard Carranza issue a "totalitarian threat" against employees after he took over last year and the demotion of longtime executives in favor of less-qualified persons of color, the New York Post reported.
"On June 27, 2018, Carranza addressed the restructuring of his administration ... announcing to all DOE employees ... that 'if you draw a paycheck from DOE,' you will either 'Get on board with [my] equity platform or leave,' a totalitarian threat to his employees' salaries and financial future that Carranza used to silence Caucasian DOE employees impacted by his discriminatory actions for no reason other than their race," read the suit filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court.
The suit's plaintiffs are a trio of white executives — Lois Hererra, Jaye Murray, and Laura Feijoo — who were demoted after Carranza took over.
"Under Carranza's leadership, DOE has swiftly and irrevocably silenced, sidelined and punished plaintiffs and other Caucasian female DOE employees on the basis of their race, gender and unwillingness to accept their other colleagues' hateful stereotypes about them," the group's lawyer, Davida S. Perry, wrote in the filing, the Post said.
Herrera, who started at the DOE in 1986 as a guidance counselor and worked her way up to lead its Office of Safety and Youth Development, claims in the suit that she witnessed huge changes almost immediately after Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Carranza in April 2018, the paper said.
One such instance involved executive LaShawn Robinson, who is black, the Post reported. Here's what the suit said:
Herrera learned from another senior administrator that Robinson expressed a discriminatory bias against her Caucasian colleagues on a number of occasions leading up to her promotion as Deputy Chancellor, including on or about May 4, 2018, while presenting at the "Border Crossers" training in her former role as Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Access, telling Caucasian colleagues that they "had to take a step back and yield to colleagues of Color" and "recognize that values of White culture are supremacist," as well as saying "We have all taken on Whiteness," while referring to being exposed to a society that has become toxic with Whiteness.
Then — despite being Harvard-educated and having been recognized as recently as 2017 for contributing to the "safest year on record" in city schools — Herrera lost her title and was demoted three levels "to essentially the bottom of the … group she formerly led," the suit says, according to the Post.
Herrera's replacement was Mark Rampersant, a black man who's "demonstrably less qualified," the suit claims, the paper said, adding that Herrera said she was "required" to attend Rampersant's promotion ceremony and that her requests for a new workstation resulted in her belongings being stuffed into boxes and stashed under a headquarters stairwell before she was transferred to the Bronx.
Murray, another plaintiff who was executive director of the Office of Counseling Support Programs, was told she would now report to Rampersant, which also was a demotion, the Post said.
While Murray boasted a record of developing anti-bias workshops, the paper said she was soon demoted another two rungs and working for Gillian Smith, the new head of the Office of Counseling Support Programs, who "began a campaign to degrade" Murray by forcing her to report her work every 30 minutes and going over her head and behind her back to direct Murray's last two subordinates.
Feijoo, the final plaintiff, said when Carranza was appointing his first deputy chancellor, he chose Cheryl Watson-Harris, who is black, rather than Feijoo, who is white and was Watson-Harris' boss, the Post reported, adding that Feijoo wasn't even interviewed.
More from the paper:
While Feijoo supervised all 46 other DOE superintendents, Watson-Harris didn't even have the necessary license to be first deputy chancellor — so Carranza instituted a "transition period" so she could obtain it, the filing says.
Feijoo was not only leapfrogged by Watson-Harris but soon saw her underling replace her with Donald Conyers, who is black, and promote nine employees into a new role, "executive superintendent."
Some of the nine had no prior superintendent experience. None was a white woman. All were now above Feijoo.
What did Carranza and the DOE have to say?
Carranza declined to comment on the suit, the Post said, adding that the Department of Education said, "We hire the right people to get the job done for kids and families, and these claims of 'reverse racism' have no basis in fact."
Here's a clip that aired prior to the lawsuit being filed:
NYC Facing Potential Lawsuit Over Schools Chancellor Carranza's Reorganizations youtu.be