How a veteran city principal spewed racial bile at black teachers, spun Machiavellian plots to destroy their careers , still kept her job, is chronocled in a scathing lawsuit charged.
The 11-page federal filing accused city education officials of ignoring the hateful rants of Queens principal Minerva Zanca, who was also charged with retaliating against an assistant principal who challenged her.
In a law suit filed Thursday, the US Attorney accused the Department of Education of engaging “in a pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation” by retaining Zanca.
The school administrator remains on the city payroll despite these allegations and complaints filed against her.
Teachers protesting Zanca denying tenure and subsequently firing black colleagues who she referred to as “having big lips” and “nappy hair.”
Commenting on the case, wanda Durant, a parent who has two students in the school said:
“If that’s the case, this is definitely the wrong place for her,” said Wanda Durant, 34, who has two students in the school. “The majority here are black kids. How can she help us?”
When principal Zanca arrived at Pan American International High School in August 2012, there were only 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-American teachers had lost their jobs, along with whistle-blowing vice principal, Anthony Riccardo.
Zanca allegedly told Riccardo that she planned to give lousy marks to the black teachers’ lessons even before the lessons were ever taught.
The three African-American educators phased out of teaching at the Pan American High School by principal Zanca in her very first year at the chool
“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 civil rights unit Bharara’s Manhattan office filed the lawsuit accusing city officials of turning a blind eye — and a deaf ear — toward Zanca’s outrageous behavior.
Her boss, District 28 Superintendent Juan Mendez, also remains on the job as well despite his defense of Zanca and refusal to discipline her, according to the lawsuit.
The principal discriminated against tenured black teacher Lisa-Erika James by cutting her “highly successful” theater program, invoking a bogus excuse of lack of funds, the suit charged.
Zanca also pushed James out of a summer teaching job despite the educator’s post as a full-time, tenured teacher.
Zanca’s son Joe, speaking outside his Kew Gardens home, defended his mother against the charges.
“My mother is no racist,” insisted Joe Zanca. “She wouldn’t say things like that. this happened years ago … Those teachers were let go because they sucked.”
According to the lawsuit, Zanca also “complained that she could ‘never’ have ‘f—ing nappy hair’ like Hightower.”
Hightower and James “were thrilled this is being pursued,” said their lawyer, Erica Shnayder.
US Attorney, Preeta Bharara filed lanti-discrimation law suit gainst DOE
The case first drew attention in June 2013, when Flanagan filed a federal complaint with the DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity. Four months later, he filed a lawsuit charging discrimination and retalation.
Federal prosecutors intend to consolidate the Flanagan case with their current filing, while Shanyder said her clients intended to filed their own lawsuits.
DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye, in a statement, said the workplace for all agency employees “must be safe and supportive, and we have zero tolerance for any discrimination.”
The city Law Department said it was “reviewing the complaint.”