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Fired DISD Whistleblower Sues District, Claiming Discrimination

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Back in March, Elliott Monteverde-Torres, then a third-grade math teacher at DISD's Botello Elementary, sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency that became very public. Monteverde-Torres was none too happy with Principal Angel McKoy, who he accused, among other things, of ignoring an incident in which a student shot a classmate with a BB gun and another in which a student was found to be passing out prescription drugs.

The district, after an investigation, determined Monteverde-Torres' claims were mostly unfounded, and besides, he was a "provisional" teacher who had been told two months before sending the letter that he wouldn't be back for the current school year. The district was as good as its word and, on June 4, his employment there ended.

Cue the discrimination lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in a Dallas County Court of at Law. According to the petition, Monteverde-Torres' troubles started when McKoy became Botello's principal in November 2010. Shortly thereafter, she disciplined Monteverde-Torres for "inappropriate classroom management." He filed a grievance with the district contesting the punishment at which point "McKoy immediately began to retaliate against him," the suit claims.

McKoy denied him access to his classroom for two months, forcing him to teach in the hallway, and demoted him to an assistant position; she reprimanded him for speaking Spanish to students in his bilingual math class; she demoted him from fourth to third grade, where there were already three bilingual teachers. Not long after, he was reclassified as a general education, rather than bilingual teacher, which meant a lower salary.

Monteverde-Torres filed a second grievance with DISD over the pay cut, at which point the alleged retaliation increased. He was subjected to increased monitoring and supervision, the suit says, and threatened with insubordination if he didn't comply with voluntary directives. In an annual review, McKoy marked his performance as "below expectations" in several areas. McKoy interrupted an end-of-semester party to demand Monteverde-Torres' presence in her office. A month later, he was told his contract would not be renewed.

The mistreatment began, the suit alleges, because McKoy, who is black, gives preference to teachers of her own race at the expense of Hispanics. It intensified as retaliation for his grievances. Monteverde-Torres claims he was illegally discriminated against because of his race and sex and because he acted as a whistleblower. He's asking for back and front pay plus unspecified damages. He also asks the court to levy a $15,000 civil penalty against McKoy. DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said the district can't comment on pending litigation.

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