Former administrators file discrimination lawsuits against superintendent, Eastpointe school district

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published September 18, 2023




EASTPOINTE/DETROIT — Two former Eastpointe Community Schools administrators have filed lawsuits against the district and its superintendent alleging they were discriminated against because of their race.

Eastpointe Community Schools Superintendent Christina Gibson and the district itself are named in two separate lawsuits that were filed this past summer in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

On July 14, former Eastpointe High School Principal Asenath Jones filed a formal complaint against Gibson and the school district accusing the superintendent of creating a hostile work environment, race discrimination and retaliation.

The next month, on Aug. 23, former secondary administrator Renita M. Williams filed a lawsuit against Gibson and the school district. Williams is bringing the action because she said she was discriminated against because of her race and she suffered inequality, retaliation and a hostile work environment.

Jones and Williams are Black, and Gibson is white. Both plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Jeffrey C. Hart and Charissa Huang, of the Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge law firm in Ann Arbor. The plaintiffs are asking for jury trials.

The Eastsider contacted Gibson’s office for comment and received the following statement via email: “We are continuing to work with district legal representation to assess these claims. We are prepared to defend against these allegations vigorously as we continue our work to serve and educate the children in our community.”

Williams, who worked for the district from 2016 to 2021, states she was one of three Black administrators at the time. Her complaint states the district received Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for staff members who were required to attend school in person “while the COVID-19 virus was virulent and thought to be life threatening” during the 2020-2021 school year. At the time, Williams was employed as an assistant principal at Eastpointe High School.

Williams alleges the ESSER grant money was provided to the district’s white administrators but the defendants failed “to provide the same grant to BLACK administrators which included the plaintiff.” Because Williams didn’t receive the grant money, she felt “indignity, humiliation, shame and embarrassment.”

She decided to leave Eastpointe Community Schools and claims Gibson “made it a mission to contact prospective employers and to badmouth the plaintiff” as she looked for work in other districts.

“Defendant Gibson used an app that many of the school districts used for hiring and defendant Gibson intentionally kept tabs on plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. “Once plaintiff submitted an employment application to a school district, defendant Gibson felt compelled to intervene in the contractual relationship plaintiff was attempting to obtain with new school district prospects.”

In Jones’ lawsuit, she states that Gibson used racial slurs on more than one occasion. Jones also states she was harassed for seeking diversity, equity and inclusion training and endured hostile comments for attending a Martin Luther King diversity, equity and inclusion conference.

Because of the hostile work environment, the lawsuit states, Jones submitted a letter of resignation earlier this spring with her last day officially May 9. According to the lawsuit, she was “escorted off the Eastpointe High School premises by the superintendent’s staff.”

Jones’ resignation came several weeks after the school board on March 30 voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution for consideration of nonrenewal for Jones’ contract. Trustee Mary Hall-Rayford was excused from the meeting.

Gibson has been superintendent since July 1, 2022. In 2021, she received the Michigan Association for Media in Education Service Award for School Administrators. The award recognizes a school administrator or team of administrators who have made a unique and sustained contribution toward furthering the role of the school library and its development in a school program.