The Bloomington Human Rights Commission is investigating a former high school teacher’s allegations of racial discrimination.
Paxton Suggs taught honors language arts at Bloomington High School North for the first time this past school year. He was employed part-time with a one-year temporary contract.
He says some parents complained to administrators about the content of his classes, but says the administration never asked him to change anything.
So he was surprised when the school suspended him with pay to investigate several unnamed concerns.
Suggs says the suspension came just a few days after a class discussion about gun regulation. One of his students recorded that talk and it circulated among parents online.
Suggs says he was the only black man teaching at Bloomington North, and school administrators treated him differently than other teachers. He appealed to the city’s human rights commission to investigate.
“I’m not worried about me,” Suggs says. “I’m worried about the 21, 22, 23-year-old black or brown kid that gets into Bloomington High School North after me, and doesn’t have the resources I have to fight back against the ridiculous and demonstrable institutional racism in which they are engaging.”
James Whitlatch, an attorney representing MCCSC, said in a statement he couldn’t discuss personnel issues, but says no racial discrimination was involved.
“MCCSC will respond to Mr. Suggs’ allegations through the legal process by fully cooperating with the Bloomington Human Rights Commission (BHRC),” Whitlatch said. “Mr. Suggs was paid the full amount due to him under his contract with MCCSC. We can also state without hesitation that no dealings with Mr. Suggs are or were based upon race, racial discrimination or discrimination in any form by MCCSC.”
Barbara McKinney is the Director of the Human Rights Commission and a City Attorney. She says the job of the BHRC is to enforce the city’s human rights ordinance.
“If we think the ordinance was violated and we can’t reach a settlement, then we can take the party to court,” she says. “We don’t have to do that very often, but we do have that authority.”
Suggs says he provided a list of ten demands to BHSN to address his concerns, but says they didn’t not satisfactorily respond to the demands. Read those demands below:
Suggs says the BHRC complaint was the only option available to him.
“The union communicated to me that had I been put on leave without pay, or had I been fired outright, that the union would have been able to file the charge of discrimination on my behalf,” Suggs says.
McKinney says the BHRC gets a lot of calls, but does not often receive an official complaint.
Once a complaint is filed, the party accused has 20 days to reply. McKinney says MCCSC asked for more time to prepare a response, and now has until June 29 to reply.
She says investigations typically wrap up with four months, but they can take longer.
Read the complete Human Rights Commission complaint below, as provided by Paxton Suggs: