Fired Gary Middle College principal files discrimination complaint

2013-09-23T23:30:00Z 2013-09-24T11:30:19Z Fired Gary Middle College principal files discrimination complaintTimes Staff
September 23, 2013 11:30 pm  • 

GARY | The former principal of Gary Middle College filed a discrimination complaint against GEO Foundation claiming his firing in January was based on his race and gender.

A news release issued by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission on Monday said GEO Foundation, which operates Gary Middle College, allegedly violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Indiana Civil Rights law when it terminated James Joiner on Jan. 25.

The commission said Joiner was hired by the operator of the charter school in March 2012 and was fired despite never being subjected to prior disciplinary action. Joiner's termination letter said, "among other things, his behavior issues were increasingly harmful," according to the news release.

The commission said GEO Foundation, "treated Caucasian and female counterparts more favorably by implementing strategic plans and affording them opportunities to have performance-based compensation plan."

GEO Foundation did not answer to the allegations or "produce evidence of a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for firing" Joiner, the commission said.

"Without this evidence, there is probable cause to believe the complainant was wrongfully terminated on the basis of race and gender as alleged," the commission's news release said.

In order to prevail in the case, Joiner must show he is a member of a protected class, he suffered an adverse employment action, he was meeting GEO Foundation's legitimate business expectations at the time of his termination and similarly situated employees of a different race and gender were treated more favorably under similar circumstances.

Kevin Teasley, president and founder of the Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation, responded to the allegations Monday.

"Joiner was employed by Gary Middle College, not GEO Foundation," Teasley said. "GEO Foundation did not answer to the allegations because he was terminated by the Gary Middle College Board, not GEO Foundation. The Gary Middle College Board is 100 percent African-American. He was terminated for cause by his board."

Joiner claimed racial discrimination was behind a previous firing as well. Joiner lost his post as principal at Clifford Pierce Middle School in 2004 when that School Board did not renew his contract.

Joiner filed a federal civil rights suit against the Merrillville Community School Corp. claiming racial discrimination was behind the decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen threw out the suit in 2008 saying Joiner did not present enough evidence to convince a reasonable jury he was fired because of his race. 

In dismissing the suit, Van Bokkelen noted Joiner's decision to have several industrial science teachers repair his home mailbox during school hours among the valid reasons for his termination.

Joiner alleged his dismissal was based in part on many teachers' discomfort with having "a strong, African-American man in a position of authority."

-- Times Staff Writer Carmen McCollum contributed to this report.

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