October 13, 2014
In Perth Amboy, N.J., it pays to be Hispanic. At least, so say two former employees of the Perth Amboy School District. Bernice Marshall, former human resource manager, and Edmund Treadway, former transportation manager, claim they were fired because the school district favors Hispanics over whites. Marshall and Treadway have filed discrimination suits against the district.
The school district denies any wrongdoing, according to Teaparty.org. School board member Israel Varela says race has nothing to do with whom the district hires or fires but points to the demographics of the area. “We’re getting up to a 95% Hispanic community. My job is to make sure that our community succeeds.” Read: if you want a school district job, you should be Hispanic.
Perth Amboy is a city of about 52,000; about 78% of the population is Hispanic. Marshall, who is black, admits that in a community with such a large Spanish-speaking population, it makes sense for the school district to hire bilingual teachers for certain positions, but she maintains the district crossed the line in its hiring practices for positions with no Spanish language requirement. Other non-Hispanic school district employees have made similar allegations.
In a 2013 memo, one non-Hispanic employee wrote, “There have been whispers that all ‘white administrators’ have a target on their backs.” And even within the district, there is some concern that the district’s practices have become discriminatory. School board member Bill Ortiz, a critic of the district’s hiring practices, says there’s a de facto understanding in the community that non-Latinos need not apply for jobs.
Derlys Gutierrez, lawyer for the Perth Amboy School District, says the discrimination suits are unwarranted and “without merit.” Marshall and Treadway allege that the school district employee trip to Puerto Rico last year says otherwise.