Former Eastpointe principal files federal racial discrimination lawsuit

School boss Gibson accused of targeting Black administrators

By Susan Smiley

On August 29, 2023

Eastpointe Community Schools Superintendent Christina Gibson is named individually in a federal lawsuit filed by former principal Renita Williams against the school district. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

A second former Eastpointe Community Schools administrator filed a federal discrimination lawsuit last week against the school district and Superintendent Christina Gibson individually.

Renita Williams, who was employed by Eastpointe Community Schools for more than five years and served as assistant principal of Eastpointe High School from August 2017 – July 2021, alleges that Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grant money was distributed only to white administrators and that no Black administrators received ESSER funds.

“It is pretty abhorrent, but our investigation proved that it it is true that only white administrators received ESSER funds,” said attorney Jeffrey Hart of Smith, Haughey, Rice & Roegge who is representing Williams in the case.

The suit also alleges that after Williams, who is Black, left Eastpointe Community Schools, Gibson, who is White, contacted prospective employers and “bad mouthed” her. The lawsuit states Gibson used a popular app often used for school district hiring to keep tabs on Williams and contacted at least three school districts where she had applied for jobs in order to “not recommend” or “bad mouth” her.

Williams is currently the principal of Oak Park High School. The hiring was announced on Aug. 14 via the Oak Park Schools’ website.

Williams also alleges Eastpointe Community Schools created a hostile work environment that resulted in constructive discharge.

According to court documents, Williams is seeking compensation in excess of $5 million.

The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 23 in United States Eastern District Court by Hart.

He is also representing former Eastpointe High School principal Asenath Jones in a 15-count federal discrimination lawsuit filed on July 14 against the Eastpointe district and Gibson.

Jones’  50-page lawsuit alleges race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment; First Amendment retaliation; violation of the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act; breach of contract; violation of the Michigan School Code; negligent misrepresentation; and defamation.

The Eastpointe Community Schools Board voted in a closed-door meeting not to renew Jones’ contract in March. Jones alleges the move was retaliation for her complaints regarding the hostile work environment at the high school and her involvement with her union.

Jones resigned in May, which sparked week-long student protests calling for reinstatement of the popular principal. Jones alleges documents critical of her work performance began appearing in her personnel file after she filed a grievance with the school district in January and that she was told by Gibson that negative reports would be removed from her file if she resigned.

Gibson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Williams lawsuit.

This piece was republished from Macomb Daily.

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