Lakeside Vindicated in Discrimination Lawsuit

Judge calls evidence “subjective.”

Last week, a federal judge dismissed the racial discrimination claims made by one of two African-American teachers suing Lakeside School, the elite private institution that claims Bill Gates as an alumnus (see SW's "Good Intentions Turn Into Diversity Backlash at Lakeside School," April 25, 2007). "Ultimately, Ms. [Novella] Coleman only offers subjective evidence to support her claims," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez, granting a partial summary judgement of a suit filed by Coleman and Chance Sims 16 months ago. The judge's order makes short work of the 900-plus pages of documents Coleman submitted on her behalf. Coleman comes across as a plaintive voice in those documents. "I have lost control over my desire to not cry in public but have been reduced to tears at the thought of returning to Lakeside or even spending another moment there," the math teacher wrote to administrators after she decided to leave the school following complaints from parents about her teaching. The judge's response: "There simply does not exist a sufficient legal nexus between her personal struggles as a teacher and the conduct of Lakeside." In fact, he opined, Lakeside attempted to address Coleman's concerns about racism. The school met with parents of a student she felt had belittled her, invited Coleman to participate in a diversity committee, and paid for her to attend a minority conference in Hawaii. It's an irony of Coleman and Sims' suit that Lakeside is facing discrimination charges at the same time it continues to push an aggressive diversity campaign. Martinez takes note of these efforts, and the fact that they began before Coleman arrived. The ruling doesn't seem to bode well for Sims, who still teaches history part time at the school. Attorney Steve Fury, who represents both teachers, says that Sims' case is distinct in that he is charging that Lakeside retaliated against him for views he expressed about racial matters. The school subsequently placed him on probation.

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