A Connecticut public school teacher filed a federal lawsuit last week against his school board for allegedly violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
John Grande, who taught P.E. for Hartford Public Schools for 35 years, is suing the school board and its administrators after he was disciplined for “voicing a skeptical opinion” during a mandatory “privilege” training.
“When Mr. Grande expressed his feelings about his employer’s presentation on white privilege and use of resources to advance critical race theory, the Board launched a prosecution against Mr. Grande simply because his opinion differed from that of the Board, its Superintendent, and other administrators,” the lawsuit reads.
“According to the Board, the purpose of the Privilege Presentation was to educate the participants on the issue of privilege (including racial, gender, religious, and other proposed forms of social privilege), so school personnel could ‘explore [their] own identity and privilege to better understand how [they] relate to [their] students in order to increase engagement and collaboration,” it continued.
Grande said the presentation was critical of straight, white, Christian males – all of which he is.
When the participants were asked to discuss the presentation, Grande replied, “I was just man-bashed and white-shamed. I’m gonna sit here quietly.”
He later said, “I’m not buying into this white-bashing BS.”
“I have nothing to apologize for,” another participant agreed. “I’ve worked hard for everything I have.”
The lawsuit alleges that the school board and administrators subsequently “launched a proverbial witch hunt in an effort to embarrass and punish [Grande].”
But the teacher wasn’t informed he was under investigation until months later, according to the lawsuit.
The investigation and the board’s “attacks on his character and professionalism” caused Grande “severe mental anguish and pain, including physical manifestations,” the suit says.
Following the incident Grande took nine sick days off work to avoid scheduled professional development programs based on race and/or critical race theory, according to the suit.
He also took an extended leave of absence from April 2021 through the end of the year due to the “hostile environment.”
In December 2021, the board gave Grande a letter of reprimand which threatened potential termination should a similar incident occur.
“In other words, the Defendants have unabashedly violated Mr. Grande’s rights in several respects, by mandating him to hold or develop certain beliefs and opinions, retaliating against and punishing him when he expresses contrary beliefs and opinions, and threatening him with further discipline and loss of employment should he not hold certain beliefs and opinions or speak out against them in any manner,” attorney Craig Fishbein wrote.
The lawsuit seeks to remove the letter of reprimand from Grande’s file, restore his paid time off, as well as compensate for monetary damages for interference and deprivation of his First Amendment rights.