Charles Sherman Neal, a former teacher at Boston Community Leadership Academy, was awarded $1.7 million on Dec. 7 by a Suffolk County jury that found that Boston schools retaliated against the Black male teacher for putting in numerous discrimination complaints. However, the jury disagreed with his claims of discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed by his attorney, Neal claimed he suffered from depression and anxiety after being terminated from the school, where he was hired to start a gym program. His condition was so severe that he was reportedly restricted to the confines of his home and struggled to do simple tasks like focusing while watching television.
Neal’s troubles began around 2008 when he initially worked at BCLA on a part-time basis. He would often raise concerns over the school’s hiring practices, which he claims were racially discriminatory. However, he was given a permanent teaching position four years later, court documents stated.
Neal, the only Black male teacher at BCLA, claims he was also a victim of discrimination after several incidents, including when he said cameras were installed in the gymnasium where he taught classes but not in any of the other teacher’s classrooms without notifying him in advance, which is contrary to district policy.
Another adult was placed in Neal’s class to monitor the girl’s locker room when he taught, but the school did not do that when a white teacher male substituted for him. Once, the school took nearly two months to reactivate his swipe card, forcing him to be buzzed in when he got to the school.
In the fall of 2014, just three days after being complimented by the headmaster, Neal was placed on administrative leave while the school investigated misconduct claims against him.
Two years later, he was fired by superintendent Tommy Chang, who cited “incapacity” as his reason behind terminating the employee. While the case went into arbitration, Neal got his job back, but only to be fired once more.
“What the Boston Public Schools did to him is despicable,” Kavaja said in a statement to the Globe. “This is a man who had cancer and overcame it and went to work right away, and he was put through the wringer. They had no basis to believe that this person couldn’t fulfill the obligations of his job. They just got tired of his complaints and didn’t want to deal with him.”
Kavaja noted that $436,500 of the award was for the emotional injuries Neal incurred. Meanwhile, $950,000 was allocated for punitive damages and the remaining amount for interest that accrued since the suit’s initial filing five years ago.
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