Black Teacher Sues School for Claimed Termination Over Book Complaints, Racial Profiling

A teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, is suing the private school where he used to work because he says he was fired because parents didn’t like how he taught a book about a Black teen who was racially profiled.

Markayle Gray, who used to teach English at Charlotte Secondary School, filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday saying that he was fired from his job as a 7th and 8th-grade teacher on February 2 because parents didn’t like how he taught the 2017 young adult novel “Dear Martin.”

Nic Stone’s 2017 New York Times best-selling book is about a Black teenager who was thrown to the ground by cops and put in handcuffs. The kid who wants to go to an Ivy League school makes up 10 letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he imagines what the civil rights leader would have done if he were in his place.

Gray says he got permission from the school to teach the book, but white parents complained about it in January, saying it “was divisive and brought what they saw as unwanted political views on systemic racial inequality into their children’s classroom,” according to the lawsuit.

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Gray’s lawyer, Artur Davis, told ABC News, “Mr. Gray was never given a written explanation of why he was being fired, nor was he given a detailed explanation.” “But there was a mention of complaints about teaching this book, and that was it.”

The Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina did not reply right away when asked for a comment.

Katie Weaver Hartzog, Gray’s lawyer, told ABC News in a statement, “Since this is a personnel matter, we are limited in what we can say about why Mr. Gray was fired.” “However, I can say that Mr. Gray’s job was ended for good reasons that had nothing to do with discrimination or retaliation. The school rejects all claims of wrongdoing and plans to fight the lawsuit with all its might.”

Other school districts, like the one in Augusta, Georgia, have banned “Dear Martin” because of complaints like these.

Davis said that Gray and Rock had a “very intentional conversation” about what would be an “appropriate curriculum” before Black History Month. She said that she told Gray that “Dear Martin” would be a good book to teach.

Davis said that Gray gave the book to the kids to read in January and planned to use it in his lessons during Black History Month in February.

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Davis says that Gray had been on personal leave for a week before he was fired. Before he was fired, Gray had not been told about any problems with his work or complaints.

Davis said that Gray was told he was being fired during a “short meeting” with Rock. She said that her parents had supposedly complained.

The lawsuit says that the school did not follow its own rules when it fired someone, such as when it fired a teacher in the middle of the school year “without a history of corrective action and without any evidence that the teacher had broken school rules.”

In this case, Gray asks for back pay, front pay, lost benefits, and other help.

Davis said that since Gray was fired in the middle of the school year, he had to change jobs and is now in real estate because his firing “has been very bad for his reputation.”

“He now has this bad reputation, and most people didn’t even know what happened to him until there was a lawsuit,” Davis said.

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Davis said that Gray started working as a teacher at Charlotte Secondary School in the fall. As a Black man, he was attracted to the school’s variety and its goal to “empower” young people.

Davis said, “He went into this line of work because he wanted to give hope to Black teenagers.”

“Working with these young people gave him a sense of mission and calling,” he said.

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