A woman forced to resign by Metro public schools last year after she was found partly responsible for hiring a sex offender is suing the city for discrimination.
Jo Patterson, a former director in the district’s human resources department, was given the option to resign or be fired after it was revealed last March that Ronald Boykin, whom Patterson’s department had recommended for hire as a teaching assistant at Donelson Middle School, was wanted as a sex offender in Chattanooga. Specifically, Boykin had apparently engaged in the sexual abuse of children.
According to the lawsuit (which can be read here), Boykin was moved from support staff to a teaching position after only five weeks on the job. But once Boykin’s history became public, the human resources director responsible for that decision, longtime district employee Gene Foster, was given a five-day suspension without pay.
Patterson, an African-American woman, alleges in the lawsuit that Foster was given preferential treatment because he is a white male. She also defends her hiring of Boykin, saying in the suit it was not standard procedure to check for outstanding warrants issued against new hires, only for criminal history.
Since her termination in April 2009, the suit says, Patterson has fallen into a clinical depression and grapples with issues related to high anxiety, both conditions that have precluded her finding employment at the same level as before.
Joseph H. Johnston, Patterson’s attorney, told The City Paper he and his client would ask for the traditional remedies available, including back pay and compensatory damages. He said he doesn’t estimate Patterson would request reinstatement, given her mental state. Dollar amounts would be determined later. As is typical, he would not comment directly on the merits of the case.
Noelle Mashburn, spokeswoman for Metro Nashville Public Schools, said the district had not yet seen the lawsuit. A Metro spokesman said the city’s legal department would not comment on the case.
The Boykin saga became public in late March 2009, after Metro police stopped him for a routine traffic violation and discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Boykin was the third public schools employee charged with a sex-related count during what was a decidedly difficult month for Metro schools.