The lawsuit concerning former East teacher Ruybe Davis against Superintendent Jim Hinson and the Shawnee Mission School District has been pushed to a trial date of May 22, 2017.
After being transferred to SM West in March, Davis filed a lawsuit against Hinson and the District for compensation in excess of $100,000 as well as attorney fees. This was made on the grounds of employment discrimination. In Davis’ complaint, she stated that her 14th Amendment rights were violated as a black U.S. citizen.
District Assistant Superintendent of Communications Leigh Anne Neal wrote an email on behalf of Hinson and the SMSD, stating that Hinson will “decline comment as this is an active legal case involving the school district.”
Davis had previously taught Biology 1, Physiology and Human Anatomy classes at East. Former West science teacher Heidi Delaney was selected to fill Davis’ role as a biology teacher. Meanwhile, Davis was transferred to West to take the Delaney’s place.
Shortly before the beginning of West’s 2015-2016 school year, Davis resigned.
“Her transfer does not make any sense,” Davis’ attorney Charles S. Scott Jr said. “We believe that she was transferred solely because she’s black, for the purpose of teaching to African-American minority students…because white teachers didn’t want to teach [at West].”
During her eight years at East, Davis did not coach any sports or sponsor any extra-curricular activities. For this reason, the SMSD justifies the transfer – as stated in the case file. The resolution was a part of a district-wide effort to move teachers with extra-curricular responsibilities to the same building in which those activities occur.
“I thought [Davis] was [a qualified teacher],” said a teacher who asked that their name be withheld. “It’s hard to find science teachers that have strong content knowledge and want to be a teacher. And she had that. [She had] a degree in biology, she was pre-med, she had a lot of anatomy classes, so I know she was qualified.”
Delaney has been employed by the SMSD for two years and worked previously at West. She is now the assistant basketball coach and a javelin coach for the track and field team at East. Delaney declined to comment on the details concerning her transfer.
In Davis’ case file, she asserts that she was never offered an opportunity to sponsor a club or coach a sport – a claim which the district denies in those documents.
“It is my understanding that the transfer was not made for legitimate educational reasons, but racial ones,” Scott said.
Davis and her lawyer point to demographic differences between the two schools as strong reasoning for their beliefs. For the 2014 school year, the minority population at West was approximately 42 percent, significantly higher than East’s 15 percent minority enrollment.
The case file also states that Hinson made his decision based upon a “stereotypical and racist belief” that Davis, as a black teacher, would be better suited than a white teacher to teach the high numbers of black and minority students at West.
The SMSD denies this claim in the filed response.
The results of these claims will be eventually be discussed at a deposition scheduled in Sept. 2016 and followed with the official trial in 2017. Until then, the suit remains active and subject to change.
“I believe [Davis] has a strong case.” Scott said. “Otherwise we would not have filed it…. and based on the information that I have obtained and hope to obtain in the near future, I think she has a very viable case.”