Jury will hear claim white teacher harassed in anti-racist training

Jury will hear claim white teacher harassed in anti-racist training

Jury will hear claim white teacher harassed in anti-racist training

A white former assistant school principal can move forward with her lawsuit alleging race-based harassment by fellow school staff after a federal court said her claims of civil rights violations and a hostile work environment deserve to be heard in front of a federal jury.

In a ruling Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia partially sided with Emily Mais in her civil rights lawsuit against the Albemarle County School Board. In the lawsuit, Mais claims she was unfairly harassed and pushed out of her job for openly complaining about mandatory “anti-racism” training for teachers and administrators.

According to court documents, Mais quit in September of 2021 after protesting her involvement in “anti-racism” training that dated back to November of 2020. That training began after the school board adopted an “anti-racism” policy in 2019 with the goal of ridding the school district of racism.

Emily Mais' accusations against Albemarle County Schools

Nov. 2020: Emily Mais, assistant school principal, attends mandatory orientation introducing an "anti-racism" policy. Staff are told by the assistant superintendent to ask themselves if they are on the “antiracism school bus." 

Teachers tell Mais they have concerns because they are being “demonized” for being white in an assigned book, Courageous Conversations about Race. She shares those concerns with the administrator in charge of the training.

May 27, 2021: Albemarle County parents vocally oppose the anti-racism policy at a school board meeting. At an administrative meeting, the assistant superintendent compares the white parents to slave owners who raped his ancestors.

June 11, 2021: In a final training session on Courageous Conversations, Mais says “colored people” instead of “people of color." A black teacher’s aide compares her to “old racists” during Jim Crow. Mais tells the school principal she is being called a “white b—" and a “racist b—" by the teacher’s aide and others.

August 6, 2021: At a meeting to discuss her comment, Mais apologizes for using the term but also shares her concerns about the “racial divisions” the race-based training is causing. The assistant superintendent says Mais must apologize in front of the entire school staff for her comment. 

August 29, 2021: Mais informs the school district she is resigning effective Sept. 10. 

Sept. 8, 2021: Mais is told what to state in her apology to school staff. She is told she is acting like a “typical defensive white person.”

Sept. 9, 2021: Mais gives her apology in front of the school staff, including to the teacher’s aide, who tells Mais and others “they could either be on her side or Mais’s side.”

- Court documents from Mais v Albemarle School Board











Almost two years later, after announcing she was quitting, Mais said she was forced to give a public apology in front of school staff for using the term “colored people” during one the anti-racism training sessions. A teacher's aide in that audience, she alleges, had once called her a "racist white b---" but was never punished.

Even the words of her apology, she alleges, were chosen by a guidance counselor who said Mais couldn't share her feelings and said she was acting like a “typical defensive white person.”

The school board filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which Mais had filed in April of 2022, and the court this week agreed to drop some counts against the school board. Citing the plaintiff’s detailed recollection of hostile conversations and bullying behavior, the court retained the serious allegation Albemarle County Schools violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

Mais is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, which says its plaintiff refused to agree with co-workers that whites are privileged and blacks are oppressed. 

"They implemented a teacher training program inspired by Critical Race Theory,” says ADF attorney Hal Frampton, “that encouraged people to discriminate on the basis of race.”

ADF also alleges its client’s problems began long before she used the phrase “colored people” and angered co-workers.  Mais apologized for the phrase but co-workers were already unhappy with her vocal disapproval of the race-based training, ADF attorneys say. 

After the federal court ruled this week, the case moves into a discovery phase in which Frampton says ADF will interview numerous school staff members are named by Mais in the lawsuit.

“It gives us an opportunity to really get to the bottom of the facts here,” the attorney says, “and to develop everything we need in order to ultimately prove our case to a jury."

Mais herself will be interviewed by attorneys for Albemarle County Schools as part of the depositions.