Teacher who sued Howard schools is put on leave

October 08, 2008|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

A Howard County high school teacher who won a racial discrimination lawsuit against the county school system last year has been placed on administrative leave after lodging a new $1 million suit alleging that her previous legal action led to harassment in her new school.

Michelle Maupin, 40, an English teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, said her principal, assistant principal and a police officer came to her classroom on Sept. 25 and ordered her to gather her belongings and leave the school.

Maupin, who is black, said she was ordered to avoid contact with employees, parents or students associated with the school.

She said she believes that she was placed on administrative leave because of her new lawsuit.

"I didn't cry," Maupin said. "Nothing anymore surprises me with the school system."

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin referred all comments on the lawsuit and the administrative leave to Mark Blom, general counsel for the school board, who declined to comment.

In July 2007, a jury awarded Maupin $237,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for racial discrimination she said she suffered while a teacher at Centennial High in Ellicott City. A judge later reduced that award by $62,000.

The problems she encountered at Wilde Lake stem from the previous suit, Maupin alleges. She and her lawyer, Dawn Martin, met with school system officials for 10 minutes on Thursday

"We have not been given a specific reason," Martin said of the administrative leave. "There are allegations that Ms. Maupin has created a hostile environment for her colleagues."

The new lawsuit alleges that Maupin has received a series of reprimands, including one after telling administrators that a fellow teacher used a racial slur in front of students. She also alleges that Wilde Lake Principal Restia Whitaker, an African-American, instructed employees to make up incidents to make it appear as though Maupin has harassed them.

"Blacks are capable of discriminating," Martin said. "Sometimes African-Americans in high positions get threatened by other African-Americans."

In addition to the school system, the school board and Whitaker, the 35-page lawsuit names Assistant Principal John Seibel and teachers Christian Callender and Robyn McDonald.

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