Metro schools settle noose-related lawsuit

Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 10:49pm

The Metro Nashville Board of Education agreed last month to award $142,225 to a former African-American school employee, settling a lawsuit slapped on the school district over racial discrimination.

Following the legal settlement, U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. dismissed the case Wednesday.

Plaintiff Raymond Matthews, a 59-year-old African-American who had worked for the district for 21 years as a groundskeeper prior to his termination, filed suit in 2009 alleging that he was subjected to several acts of harassment including having to witness a hangman’s noose tied to a Metro Nashville Public Schools van.

According to the suit, many of the racially motivated acts began shortly after supervisor James Kemper, who is white, arrived in 2007. The suit contended that Kemper called Matthews a “hood rat” and divided the groundskeeper staff by race by cautioning another white employee, “You need to decide which side of the fence you’re on.”

The suit said inappropriate behavior also came from Randy Maupin, another white school employee. Matthews was one of Maupin’s superiors, but Maupin often refused to do work because of Matthews’ race, the suit contended.

In November 2007, around the time of the "Jena Six" civil rights marches, a coworker notified Matthews that Maupin had tied a hangman's noose on an MNPS van, according to the complaint, which did not name Maupin as a defendant.

The suit contended that Kemper’s behavior only worsened, leading Matthews to report the behavior to other supervisors on three separate occasions. “MNPS failed to take appropriate steps to prevent or correct the unlawful harassment,” the suit read.

On Dec. 2, 2007, Matthews and Kemper engaged in a shouting match in a school parking lot. The suit contended that Matthews was terminated because of the altercation.

Matthews appealed the termination. Eventually, an administrative hearing took place.

In a letter to then-Interim Director of School Chris Henson, an outside reviewer who examined the accusations wrote, “It appears as though Mr. Matthews’ actions on Dec. 21, 2007, were the result of racial hostility in the workplace that had been occurring for several months, if not longer.”

In the course of the litigation, Kemper was dismissed as an individual defendant, along with Matthews' immediate supervisor, Timothy McLaughlin.

24 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 10/22/10 at 3:17

These type lawsuits being settled only encourages more. Why not
have a jury trial and let the statements come from sworn testimony
on the witness stand. Does Metro with it's large legal department
not have attorneys compentent enough to stand in front of a jury? Are
they only able to give shaky opinions on subjects that are brought
before them? If surrender to every cause and event is their agenda
then that may be part of the overall problems within the school district.
Council gives in as well on approving each and every one of the
cases that comes before them for approval.

By: HokeyPokey on 10/22/10 at 6:11

When I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Negro garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Negroes, I get worried. I get nervous.

By: WayneR on 10/22/10 at 6:53

Let's see if have this straight.

Metro hires two employees, one James Kemper and two, Randy Maupin, who over time harass another employee, Raymond Matthews, using racial epithets. Mr. Matthews complains three times to his supervisor, Timothy McLaughlin, and then acting Director Chris Hensen, among others, who opt to ignore the complaints, including one in which a noose was tied to a school van.

U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. dismissed the suit after awarding more than $142,000 to Raymond Matthews.

Why am I, as a taxpayer, forced to contribute to the award? Why should the perpetrators of the harassment not pay for their behavior? Should not the people who harassed the plaintiff pay the levied fine? Should not the people who ignored Mr. Matthews complaints on several occasions pay for their failure to act? Why are my tax dollars used to pay for negligence on the part of MNPS employees? Please forgive my rhetoric, but something about this stinks.

Phiber Optik

By: morpheus120 on 10/22/10 at 7:33

HokeyPokey: I'm sorry you're such a coward that you can't take a plane anymore without all those "negroes" and their "garb" scaring your poor wittle self.

Might I suggest taking a bus or a cab to wherever you need to go? You certainly won't have to worry about "negroes" on either of those. Oh wait...

You know what? Maybe you should just not leave the house. Stay under the covers and watch Fox News all day. You'll be nice and safe, then.

By: budlight on 10/22/10 at 8:06

What is negro garb?

By: localboy on 10/22/10 at 8:18

Good post, govskeptic.
Gee morpheus, I guess I thought HP was making a sardonic attempt at humor; boy, did I read that wrong!

By: Ingleweird on 10/22/10 at 9:07

@GovSkeptic & WayneR:
Let's see if have this straight [sic]:
You guys are miffed because we as taxpayers have to pay $ to settle lawsuits. Perhaps because Metro has more $ than individual perpetrators. I'll bet Metro Legal has reason to believe a jury would award more $ than the amount settled upon, in part due to precedents in settlements, & not to mention the cost of retaining an attorney to drag out an inevitable loss on the part of Metro and lost productivity on other Metro legal matters.
MNPS, as well as all employers, public and private, have a legal obligation to address and take corrective action in regards to many types of harassment in the workplace, especially when the harassment creates a "hostile working environment.". Metro apparently failed to do so, and so they are liable for violating the employee's rights. Please visit for more information - this should set you straight.

HokeyPokey was making a reference to the firing of an NPR's Juan Williams, unrelated to this article, likely because he is a conservative bigot.

Pecunia in arbotis non crescit.

By: nothingbutagthng on 10/22/10 at 9:27


I would surmise that HokeyPokey is too ignorant to understand latin

By: localboy on 10/22/10 at 9:33

Pecunia non olet

By: etoft on 10/22/10 at 9:52

Pecunia in arbotis non crescit - But liberals act like it does.

Pecunia non olet - The things that our government spends it on do.

These are intended to be humorous barbs. Anyone responding with a flame must be some kind of communist zealot with their head so far up where the sun don't shine that they might as well be Obama.

By: etoft on 10/22/10 at 9:58

Humorous barbs aside...

I'm not sure when Matthews was terminated but it must have been shortly after the Dec 2007 altercation.

The case file indicates that Matthews was wrongly terminated as a result of the altercation, and the cause of the altercation was illegal harrassment directed at him.

The supervisor and his manager, Kemper and McLaughlin, were fired during litigation of that case. That was the right thing for the schools to do.

Now, at this point Matthews has been out of that job, which he rightfully deserves to still, have for 3 years.

In those 3 years he would have earned at least part of that $47,408/year in performing his job.

I cannot see this award as being out of line. It is sad that the taxpayers have to foot the bill, but racisim is an expensive thing to ignore or condone.

If HP is for real...I think not...then HP needs to get a life. I'm inclined to think it was, as localboy said, 'a sardonic attempt at humor'.

Skin color is only skin deep (imagine that) but bigotry, hatred, and stupidity go all the way to your soul.
You cannot be a true Christian and hold to this kind of or white...Jew, Muslim or Catholic...He calls us to LOVE our fellow man and calls LOVE the GREATEST commandment.
He does not put conditions on that LOVE and even tells us to love those who hate us. He thereby makes hate a definition of the adversary.
Of course repentance will earn forgiveness...He died for us all...and with true repentance the resulting forgiveness will set you free to share that love without condition.

On another note...
FoxNews is not your enemy and is far from racist. People who only look at one side of an issue and hate an alternate view are the enemy.
Take a look at the issues from both sides, and make an effort to make up your own mind.
You may disagree with conservative views but it is a VALID viewpoint just as much as a liberal viewpoint is.

If you want the government to own responsibility for your house (HUD), medical care (Medicaid), retirement (SocialSecurity), food (food stamps), etc. then liberalism and socialism are for you.
In these programs, it is the wealthy liberals who get to free their consciences of their guilt for the plight of those whom they are opressing.
Conservatives pay their taxes along with liberals, but contribute far more to social charities than their liberal counter parts.
Who is the caring group?

Maybe this is because conservatives feel even more guilty, but perhaps it is because they feel true responsibility and compassion for their fellow man.
This then compells them to make a personal effort to direct their wealth toward social causes that they believe will actually help people.
Charities that conservatives tend to support provide help but require input and effort from those they help...think Habitat for Humanity. The input and effort gives the recipient purpose, and training that will help them to become more productive, and to be able to better help themselves.
Government programs offer only hand outs, requiring little effort, no self improvement and no hope for a path out of servitude to the system.
Who is the opressor?

By: Ingleweird on 10/22/10 at 10:40

WTH do your partisan politics have to do with this article? OK, I'll take the bait. Do you even know what a zealot is, you zealot? The only thing that stinks in here is your putrid attempt at humor. At least non-conservatives have a sense of humor. Now go take your Medicare-funded scooter and wheel on back to your Palin Klan rally. Generalizations suck, right? Now scoot!

Pecunia in arbotis non crescit.

By: govskeptic on 10/22/10 at 10:49

Ingleweird you must be employed by Metro legal. My point was why
doesn't Metro try a few cases now and then without having to hire
outside attorney. Legal settles many-many cases for outlandish sums
and then Metro Council approves when the facts are really as strong
as they may have been in this case. Of course, it's just taxpayers money!

By: etoft on 10/22/10 at 11:03

The humor here is that you could not resist taking the bait. That is all it was is bait, and it is most humorous of all that you took it. You have, in doing so, presented an irrelavent, patently false diatribe that proves you to be a zealot with no sense of humor. I am LMAO.

BTW a zealot is a person who fanatical to the point of being blind to any point of view that differs from treir own. That is in my own words. Now let's see what Merriam webster has to say...

1capitalized : a member of a fanatical sect arising in Judea during the first century a.d. and militantly opposing the Roman domination of Palestine

Are yo a member of the ancient Roman empire? Perhaps that is why you get glee from spouting irrelavent latin.

2: a zealous person; especially : a fanatical partisan

I particularly enjoyed the following Example provided by Webster's...
Examples of ZEALOT
"zealots on both sides of the issue resorted to name-calling and scare tactics"

I don't believe that I used any kind of derrogatory names or scare tactics to mischaracterize you. But I believe you did. Funny how that works.

Thanks for the laugh.

By: etoft on 10/22/10 at 11:07

BTW sorry for the typo's. I'm sure I'd be attacked because of them next, so I'm saving you your energy...don't bother.

By: NewYorker1 on 10/22/10 at 12:43

Wow!!!! Only $142,225? There should be three zeroes added to the end of that figure.

Get paid my brotha, get paid. Laugh all the way to the bank.

By: HokeyPokey on 10/22/10 at 3:48

de gustibus non est disputandum
nihil supra pecunia

By: morpheus120 on 10/22/10 at 4:26

Still not sure if HP was for real or being sarcastic about that dipshit @ Fox News.

By: HokeyPokey on 10/22/10 at 6:23

@ morpheus. Yes.

By: Ingleweird on 10/23/10 at 10:27

Thanks for the compliment. No law job, just an Associate's art degree and an inquiring mind. I don't have a definitive answer to your questions. My guess is Metro Legal believes the evidence is overwhelmingly NOT in their favor, and a jury could potentially/likely award more $.

@etoft: Your typos are the least of your failures.
Bless your heart. I see hyperbole is not one of your stronger suits. My apologies; it appears I have mistaken you for a zealot, when you more closely resemble a troll, dropping in to stir the pot. My bad. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to explain to me the definition of a "zealot," and proving yourself to be an agitator. Although I don't find your commentary to be LOL funny, It would seem as if we are equally entertained by each other! You see,when you speak in absolutes, such as conservatives being more compassionate & paying more towards charities, or liberalism being for people who don't want personal responsibilities, you have, in doing so, presented a patently false diatribe, that proves YOU to be a zealot with no sense of humor. See how easy this is? We could go on like this indefinitely! As I previously said, generalizations suck, right?

By the way, FoxSnooze IS the enemy, because they politically polarize people who have no comprehension of the difference between objectivity/news/facts and subjectivity/editorials/opinion.

Your ignorance is the oppressor.

Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. -Patti Smith
Pecunia in arbotis non crescit.

By: Ingleweird on 10/23/10 at 1:44

Also, Metro Council tends to have a decidedly herd-like mentality on like 90% of the stuff they vote on. I have been a member of a mid-sized town's legislative body. Elected, but unpaid. It was amazing how many bills/votes in which we would have half-hour plus debates, only to have it approved unanimously. Principled stands don't amount for much when it comes to local politics. Personally, I would like to abolish the 75% taxpayer-paid health insurance FOR LIFE that WE as taxpayers must offer to all members of our illustrious Council. You want to talk wasteful spending? There's your sign.

Pecunia in arbotis non crescit.

By: gofer on 10/23/10 at 3:41

Juan Williams is a Liberal, NOT a conservative, although he practices his beliefs with respect. He went on Fox the very next day attacking the Tea Party as racists. He finally got a dose of liberal reality....liberals don't tolerate dissent and are fanatically politically correct.

By: Ingleweird on 10/24/10 at 6:22

Yeah, that's right! Because conservatives/Repubs would NEVER shun and oust people like Kent Williams from their political party because they stray from the herd and (gasp!) think for themselves!

Political correctness is a problem for you guys, because (like, what, 90% of the time?) you don't have to worry about offending other white Christian conservatives. The tea parties as organizations may not be racist, but they sure do attract a lot of racist, xenophobic, intolerant, and bigoted individuals. Why do you feel so threatened by political correctness? Is it because you don't feel like all people deserve to be treated with respect? You used the word "respect" in your post, so...How do YOU define respect? By the way, just because some claim they are not racist, does not make it so, and it doesn't take a rocket (or political) scientist to see intolerance for what it is. Thanks for setting us straight on Juan's political inclinations. He now has a $2 mil, 3-year contract with Fox, so I guess Fox thinks that bigotry resonates with their viewers. Furthermore, conservatives don't have a monopoly on intolerance; there are closed-minded liberal bigots as well. Political affiliation is not the real problem; intolerance and ignorance is.

Pecunia in arbotis non crescit.

By: localboy on 10/25/10 at 3:06

Duos latuseris of idem eadem idem lamnia lammina lamna