Tukwila School District preparing response to racial-discrimination lawsuit

Nine current and former employees have filed a lawsuit against the Tukwila School District, claiming racial discrimination.

Mike Patterson, legal counsel hired by the Tukwila School District, said he and the district are preparing a formal response to the lawsuit that will be available within two or three weeks.

"We are in the process of gathering records and meeting with witnesses in regard of that lawsuit," Patterson said.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 12 in King County Superior Court, details incidents and concerns from district teachers and staff regarding racial matters.

"The Tukwila School District and its superintendents refuse to acknowledge the discrimination despite repeated complaints," states the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Joan Mell, believes those employees of color are "subject to greater scrutiny" as opposed to others.

"It's a matter of color," Mell said. "There just doesn't seem to be any specific policy agenda to talk about (race) or embrace it."

Mell also said she will amend the initial complaint against the district to include student achievement and facilities issues, among other concerns that will be filed by the end of March.

Last year, an investigation led by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began after several Tukwila School District employees filed racial-discrimination complaints against former superintendent Ethelda Burke.

Last June, Burke ultimately resigned as superintendent, and the school district wrote a statement explaining that it found no evidence to justify the complaints. The current lawsuit refers to past complaints made regarding Burke.

"This is a continuation of the concerns that the district refuses to have a conversation about discrimination and race," Mell said. "Statistically, they aren't meeting the needs of their population."

The Tukwila School District serves almost 3,000 students and is the most diverse school district in King County.

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