Black teacher sues Santa Monica school for racial discrimination: ‘Go back to Africa’

A white male co-worker at New Roads School allegedly told Tiffany Wright to "go back to Africa," but got no reprimand because an administrator claimed he didn't mean it.

A Black teacher in California is suing her former employer, accusing the institution of racial discrimination, including failing to act when a co-worker told her to “go back to Africa.”

Tiffany Wright filed the lawsuit against New Roads School in Santa Monica on Dec. 12, alleging the private prep school enabled a hostile work environment, failed to stop harassment and wrongfully terminated her, The Daily Beast reported.

Wright started working as a teacher at New Roads in 2018. According to her lawsuit, the institution’s purported commitment to diversity attracted her to the position, but she later discovered it failed to uphold its mission.

New Roads School in Santa Monica
New Roads School in Santa Monica, California, is facing a racial discrimination lawsuit. Tiffany Wright, a Black teacher who used to work there, accuses the institution of fostering a hostile work environment. (Photo: Screenshot/ Roads School)

New Roads’ website states its mission is to “liberate young individuals through the pursuit of justice, equity and opportunity.” It says it also aims to raise generations of fiercely compassionate advocates in an intellectual environment fueled by genuine diversity and empower them to challenge the systems that foster inequality and create a more just future.

“As is true with many organizations that project a certain image or identity… New Roads was completely different from what it claimed to be,” Wright’s lawsuit alleges, according to The Daily Beast. 

Wright claimed that over time, she witnessed children and teachers being treated differently based on their color. In September 2019, she said, a white male co-worker ordered her to “go back to Africa,” but he received no reprimand because an administrator claimed he didn’t mean it.

“At the School, Plaintiff experienced almost the exact opposite of anti-racism, being confronted with absurd and offensive comments like ‘go back to Africa,'” according to the lawsuit, The Daily Beast reported. “When she complained about this and the overall racism she had experienced, she was ignored, shunned, told to shut up, ‘eat sh**,’ and was even threatened by the school’s administrators.”

Wright alleged that most of the parents who paid New Roads’ full tuition — more than $43,000 annually — were white and made large donations, giving them the power to decide how officials managed the school. Their authority included selecting which teachers were retained and which students were disciplined.

New Roads’ website states that 40 percent of its teachers, 45 percent of students and 28 board members are of color. Wright’s lawsuit asserts that minority students typically received financial aid and had less influence.

“The School was cognizant of this differential treatment based on race and still encouraged it, pressuring teachers to take better care of the full-paying white students,” Wright alleges in her lawsuit, The Daily Beast reported. “The School also pressured teachers to appease and do whatever the parents of full-paying white students wanted, including changing their children’s grades and treating them better than any of the minority half-paying scholarship students.”

Wright claimed that in addition to racist remarks, one school presentation on the word “laugh” featured a picture of Vice President Kamala Harris next to an image of an ape, which was “jarring and racially offensive to many students and faculty members,” The Daily Beast reported.

The former New Roads teacher learned in May 2021 that officials would not renew her contract for the upcoming academic year. She told her students that many “bad things” probably caused her firing.

Ryan Hawley, the assistant head of school at New Roads, is said to have abruptly put her on leave after learning what she had told her students.

According to The Daily Beast, neither the school nor Wright responded to requests for comment about the lawsuit.

Wright is seeking a jury trial and punitive damages.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!