Principal suing Columbia Public Schools over alleged discrimination

8 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Tuesday, July 31 2018 Jul 31, 2018 Tuesday, July 31, 2018 10:05:00 AM CDT July 31, 2018 in News
By: Steve Lambson, News Content Manager

COLUMBIA - The principal at West Middle School filed a lawsuit against Columbia Public Schools on July 26, accusing the district of racial discrimination.

Dr. Melita Walker, an African American woman, applied for the open principal position at Hickman High School in 2017. Walker has a doctorate degree in education and 20 years experience in education, including four years in administrative roles.

In the lawsuit, Walker said she had been passed over for promotion and job interviews more than once, the Hickman position being the latest example. The suit says Walker "applied for many other positions within the school district that [she] was highly qualified for and for which [she] was denied even the opportunity to interview."

The panel which interviewed her was reportedly made up of only white women, some of whom were on the Hickman faculty. Walker claims there was a "lack of objectivity in the hiring process, and also a failure on the school’s part to include people of diversity in that process."

The job instead went to Tony Gragnani, "a white male...[and] member of a committee with the women who had interviewed [Walker.]"

Before moving to West Middle School, Walker was an assistant principal at Battle High School.

CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the district does not comment on specific personnel matters, including legal ones. She did include the following statement:

"Columbia Public Schools is steadfastly committed to creating an inclusive culture where the thoughts and ideas of all of our staff are heard, appreciated, and respected. As part of this commitment, CPS strives to provide an educational and work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The administration takes seriously all allegations of discrimination.  In accordance with our district policies, all complaints are immediately investigated as soon as they are reported to the district."

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