Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Penns Grove-Carneys Point Board of Education paid out $145,000 to settle Caucasian teacher's racial discrimination lawsuit.

On July 30, 2016, the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional Board of Education (Salem County) agreed to pay $145,000 to a Logan Township man who claimed that the Board refused to hire him because he is Caucasian.

In his lawsuit, Brian Shields said that his 2013 job interviews with School Superintendent Joseph Massare and Field Elementary School Principal Mary Kwiatkowski went well and that Massare recommended to the Board that he be hired as a 2nd or 3rd grade teacher.  Shields also said that Massare told him that the Board "always approved his recommendations."

According to the lawsuit, unnamed individuals came to the August 12, 2013 Board meeting and accused the Board of "not hiring enough minorities at the school."  Despite Massare's refutation of the accusation, Shields claims that the board rejected his application and that Massare later told him that "his hiring had been rejected because [he]was not a minority." 

Also named in the suit was former Board President Gregory T. White.

The case is captioned Shields v. Penns Grove-Carneys Point Public Schools, et al, Federal Case No. 1:14-cv-2106 and Shields's attorney was James M. Duttera of Philadelphia.  Case documents are on-line here.  Of the $145,000, Shields received $83,778.21 and his lawyer received $61,221.79.

None of the Shields's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Penns Grove-Carneys Point or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Shields $145,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.