The president of the Prince George’s County branch of the NAACP is demanding that a high school principal who has been accused of harassing and bullying former employees resign or be terminated.
In the past month, one discrimination case involving Simpson-Marcus’s alleged ill treatment toward employees went to trial and resulted in a $350,000 jury award. The school board recently reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement in a second discrimination case.
“It’s time for her to go,” Ross said. “For the good of the system, it would be better for her to resign. . . . You can’t have a workplace where you are discriminating [against] employees, whether black or white.”
Jon Everhart, who won the $350,000 award, alleged that Simpson-Marcus, who was working as a physical education teacher at the Largo school in 2003, told students that “the only reason a white man teaches in P.G. County is that they can’t get a job elsewhere.” He filed a discrimination claim against Simpson-Marcus to the teachers’ union. He said she then targeted him, telling him that if she ever became principal, he would be the first person she would fire.
When Simpson-Marcus returned to the school as principal in 2007, Everhart said, she told his students and their parents that he “was a bad teacher . . . poor white trash . . . and would be fired,” according to his lawsuit. Everhart was fired in 2010 and then filed the lawsuit.
In an e-mail response to a letter Lehman sent last week, Prince George’s schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell, who has not personally commented on the cases, criticized the council member for taking a public stance.
“I’m disappointed that you chose to rely on one single source to frame your thinking on the situation,” he wrote. “My hope is that you would know to seek all the facts, perspectives and information before taking such a bold stance on an issue.”
Simpson-Marcus did not respond to a request for comment.
The school system has argued that the charges against Simpson-Marcus are false, describing her as an effective leader who “has made great contributions to Largo High School and the education community in the D.C. area for almost 10 years.”
Lehman and Ross said they were dismayed by the school system’s response.
“If a white principal were accused of such outrageous, racist behavior, he or she would have been terminated — and rightly so,” Lehman wrote. She wrote that the principal should be fired immediately and that top school officials “should publicly denounce racism in all its ugly forms.”
“If it was a white principal doing the same thing, the community would be screaming bloody murder,” he said.
Ross also questioned the logic of the school system’s defense of Simpson-Marcus.
“They basically said because she’s doing a good job, it’s okay to harass,” Ross said. “That’s the statement that annoyed me. A good job doesn’t excuse her behavior.”
Ross, who has been monitoring the case since several black former employees lodged complaints a few years ago, said he called school system officials Thursday after consulting with Lehman. He plans to submit a formal letter to Maxwell soon.
In Lehman’s letter, which was sent Thursday, she said she is embarrassed for the county and its school system and “appalled by the school system’s defense of the pattern of blatantly racist behavior” by the Largo High principal.
Everhart was one of several Largo High employees who made allegations of harassment. Some who filed lawsuits said they were mistreated for vocally supporting Everhart.
Prince George’s County Board of Education Chairman Segun Eubanks said the school system, which has appealed the Everhart award, looks forward to the legal process to fully take its course.
He said the recent settlement and jury award do “not mean we were wrong or that [the case] had validity. Hopefully in time a lot more of the details will come out about why the case didn’t have merit.”
Eubanks said he couldn’t comment on those details.