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Coach–called a ‘poor fit’–files race bias suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

When track coach and teacher Alvin Jackson was hired in September 2010, he became Frisco High School’s only black coach and core-subject teacher. Now he is suing the Frisco Independent School District, alleging that his contract wasn’t renewed this year because of race discrimination.

Before Jackson began coaching the Frisco girls’ track and field team, the squad traditionally practiced with the boys’ team. Shortly after Jackson’s arrival, the boys’ coach opted for separate practices.  

Jackson told Associate Principal Cade Smith that he “believed the difficulties were race-related.” Smith instructed Jackson not to contact HR and told him he would handle the issue himself.  

But then, Smith conducted a review of Jackson’s work and wrote that he was performing “below expectations in a majority of the areas.” Previous evaluations had noted no areas of concern. Jackson asked for a second evaluation by a different administrator, who found him “proficient in all areas but one.”

Early this year, school officials informed Jackson his contract would not be renewed for the 2012-2013 school year. The principal told Jackson he was not a “good fit,” but he would receive a letter of recommendation if he resigned.

That’s when Jackson complained to the EEOC and subsequently filed suit against the school district.

The school district contends that the decision not to renew Jackson’s contract was based solely on his classroom performance.

Note: Terms like “good fit” and “team player” don’t play well in court because they seem to imply that the employee didn’t conform to institutional norms. Courts sometimes take that as code for bias.

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