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.