The Duluth branch of the NAACP is looking into the situation surrounding former Denfeld High School Principal Tonya Sconiers, who was fired from the Duluth school district earlier this summer.
Stephan Witherspoon, president of the Duluth NAACP, told the News Tribune Tuesday evening that the organization is examining Sconiers' claims in the lawsuit she filed last week against the district because her complaint alleges discrimination on the basis of race and sex.
"What she is filing a lawsuit about is in line with the mission statement that we have," Witherspoon said. "So we are going to look into it and make sure we can support her."
The NAACP mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination."
Sconiers filed a lawsuit against the district, superintendent Bill Gronseth and assistant superintendent Jeff Horton, claiming a violation of First Amendment rights and discrimination based on race and sex. Sconiers is seeking monetary relief, with the amount to be determined by a jury.
Her lawsuit refutes the termination letter written by district officials that said she was fired for various reasons, from misusing sick leave to violating a collective bargaining agreement. The Duluth School Board approved Sconiers' termination based on the grounds of “immoral character, conduct unbecoming a principal, insubordination, failure without justifiable cause to act as a principal and inefficiency in the management of a school,” according to the letter.
Members of the community spoke at the School Board meeting Tuesday night in support of Sconiers and in disapproval of the way her termination was handled. Former Duluth NAACP president Claudie Washington asked the board to review the district's policy to recruit, hire, train, promote and to retain people of color.
"I've watched in most recent years where we've had people of color who have had administrative positions who were not taken care of in accordance with the policy of the school district," Washington said. "I've noticed that the School Board and school administration make all kinds of exemptions in their hiring practices, and yet when it comes to people of color, it seems to be very intolerant to train and maintain and promote people of color."
Kevin Skwira-Brown, who has been very vocal in the past about equity within the school district, said he was disappointed and angered by the termination of Sconiers.
"Tonya pushed for equity within while those of us in the community were calling for the same changes in the local press and here in this board room," he said. "It takes particular courage, for people within this district to push for equity and push for change in the status quo."