Success Academy subject of $64 million racism lawsuit

Jerald Times believes the charter school system fired him for decrying a "separate but equal" philosophy that saw Black educators marginalized in favor of less competent whites.

New York City’s largest charter school network is at the center of a $64 million lawsuit for alleged systemic racial discrimination.

According to Patch, former Success Academy chess director Jerald Times said he believes the institution fired him for speaking out against a “separate but equal” philosophy that saw Black educators marginalized in favor of less competent white personnel.

“Success Academy was, in essence, operating under a color line,” Times said, Patch reported. “I challenged the color line and was dismissed.”

A Success Academy student takes notes in class. Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter school network, is at the center of a former staffer’s $64 million lawsuit alleging systemic racial discrimination. (Photo: Screenshot/ Academies)

Times’ lawsuit, filed in New York federal court, claims Success Academy directed him to demote three Black teachers and hired a white candidate over five competent persons of color. It also contends there were no internal chess competitions in Black and brown communities even though more than 80 percent of the students are of color.

Before speaking at an online chess tournament, Success Academy allegedly required a Black man with a Ph.D. in physics to submit to fingerprinting, an extensive background check and a drug test. Neither of its two white guest speakers underwent the same process, and only one had to be fingerprinted.

The suit contends that Success Academy’s chess manager consistently gave Black coaches worse evaluations than their white counterparts and unfairly refused them promotions.

Times’ attorney, Rocco Avallone, contends that Success Academy appears to have a history of discriminating against African American employees, particularly in its chess program.

“It seems like they’re being treated differently than similarly situated Caucasian teachers and staff members,” Avallone said, according to Patch.

Times joined the organization in 2019. Before firing him in November 2020, Success Academy allegedly took the chess program away and replaced him with a staffer with only a high school diploma.

According to Times’ suit, one Success Academy staff member told him he was “not a cultural fit.” The institution allegedly turned its back on him when he started to speak out against what he perceived as racist attitudes.

By the time a Black chess teacher complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Times said, he had seen enough. Soon after expressing his opinion, Times claims he received a subpar evaluation, was demoted and had his pay reduced.

A Success Academy official declined to address the lawsuit directly but stated that leaders “plan to defend aggressively,” noting that 69 percent of staff and 55 percent of teachers are not white.

“The issues you present ignore Success Academy’s excellent track record of hiring and promoting educators of color,” the spokesperson said, Patch reported.

Times said he hopes the $8 million the lawsuit seeks for each of the eight civil rights violations lodged against Success Academy will prevent further discrimination.

“It’s about challenging the culture of racial discrimination at Success Academy,” he told Patch. He said the only way to do so “is through a lawsuit.”

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