Ex-VB teacher fired after lesson on harms of stereotypes sues for $500K

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A lesson taught last year at Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach is now the center of a $500,000 lawsuit.

The teacher behind it is suing the school system, claiming she was let go for no reason.

Many parents were upset by the lesson they say was offensive.

According to the federal lawsuit, Kempsville teacher Deborah Smith was teaching a class in May 2018 about stereotypes of certain groups of people, including “Blacks,” “Asians” and “Hispanics” on large Post-It Notes hung in the classroom.

Some students wrote on the note describing African-Americans with phrases such as: “all black people eat fried chicken,” “can’t swim” and “black people don’t succeed,” along with racial slurs.

“I thought it was a joke,” one parent told 10 On Your Side. “I thought it was a rumor or something. I didn’t think it was real.”

A picture of the paper was shared on social media and then with 10 On Your Side.

Smith believes she was portrayed as a person who created a racially-hostile environment for students in class. After an investigation by school officials and then several hearings, Smith was fired a couple months later.

She’s asking for the court to award her damages against her former employer for wrongful termination. 

According to the lawsuit, none of the students in the class seemed to have an issue with what was written, and the activity created an appropriate and beneficial lesson to the students.

“The issue in this case is not just important to Smith, but also all teachers everywhere,” said Smith’s attorney Raymond Hogge. “It’s about how the school system treats its employees.”

10 On Your Side reached out Virginia Beach City Public Schools and were told it would not comment on pending litigation. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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