Queens Principal Under Fire For Allegedly Saying Black Teacher Looks Like “A Gorilla in a Sweater” – Lawsuit Filed

By Staci Wilson:Credt:The Ged Section
If this is true…heads will roll! Or at least they better!

It’s stunning what some people in the education field still get away with in the 21st century…

Shocking, but sadly not surprising, comes news of a lawsuit filed against the Department of Education for “a pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation,” naming Pan American International High School’s Principal Minerva Zanca as the problem.

When Principal Zanca was hired in August 2012, there were three black teachers on the 27-member staff: John Flanagan, Heather Hightower and Lisa-Erika James. By the school year’s end, all three African-Americans were gone due to poor performance reports turned in by Zanca.

Here are some of the comments and actions listed in the suit, filed Thursday (6/9/16)

  • In December 2012, Zanca allegedly commented to Assistant Principal Anthony Riccardo that Heather Hightower “looked like a gorilla in a sweater.”
    Zanca allegedly asked Riccardo if he had seen John Flanagan’s “big lips quivering” during a meeting.
    She also allegedly grumbled that she could never have “f*#%ing nappy hair” like Heather Hightower.
    Lisa-Erika James says her theater program lost funding through budget cuts that the suit claims were “bogus.”
    Zanca allegedly said it was hard not laughing at John Flanagan because he reminded her of a Tropicana juice commercial where a black man “with those same lips” danced down a supermarket aisle.
    When Assistant Principal Anthony Riccardo (who is not black) complained about the racist remarks, he was fired and Zanca made sure he was escorted out of the school by security.

“It is nearly unthinkable that, in this day and age, one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the United States would allow racial discrimination and retaliation to flourish,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The case first drew attention in June 2013, when John Flanagan filed a federal complaint with the DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity, but it’s taken this long to come to fruition as a lawsuit against The Department of Education.

When the news caught up with Minerva’s son Joe, here’s what he had to say: “My mother is no racist. She wouldn’t say things like that. This happened years ago. Those teachers were let go because they sucked.”

Minerva herself has not commented on the allegations or the lawsuit.

DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said the workplace for all employees “must be safe and supportive, and we have zero tolerance for any discrimination.” The city Law Department said it was “reviewing the complaint.”

“We were the only African-American teachers, and all three of us have left – which means there are no African-American teachers at the school when over half the population of the students look like us,” Lisa-Erika James said.

If she is found guilty, what do you think should happen to Minerva Zanca? Weigh in here.


Victor Imhangbe

Hey, there! I am Victor Imhangbe and I am the brain behind this great lifestyle blog where you get to read everything from life to education to fashion and pretty much about everything else. I invite you to keep keeping tab on our latest news and updates!

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