Former Elementary School Assistant Principal Sues Albemarle County School Board after Quitting Due to Alleged Racially Hostile Work Environment

A former Albemarle County elementary school assistant principal is suing the school board, claiming that a racially hostile work environment forced her to quit her job in 2021. Emily Mais’ lawsuit describes an escalating series of conflicts related to anti-racism trainings, including the book Courageous Conversations About Race, which Governor Glenn Youngkin’s education administration has identified as an example of Critical Race Theory.

“The curriculum sets up a classic Catch-22, in which a white person’s objections to the content of the curriculum are simply evidence that he or she is a racist who needs further training on the curriculum,” the complaint states. “Unfortunately for her, Ms. Mais was caught in that Catch-22. When Ms. Mais complained about the curriculum and protested reverse racism, she was branded a racist, severely and pervasively harassed, relentlessly humiliated, and ultimately compelled to resign from a job that she loved to preserve her mental health.”

The complaint includes concerns about statements and behavior by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bernard Hairston, who oversaw the district’s anti-racism policy, and teacher’s aide Sheila Avery, who represented a group of black employees.

Some of the statements in the complaint include: “Dr. Hairston compares white parents who express concern about the Division’s “anti-racism” policy to rapist slave owners,” and “Ms. Avery verbally abuses Ms. Mais in the final training session, the complaint claims.”

The lawsuit argues that the school division violated Mais’ freedom of speech by retaliating after she communicated her views and by trying to constrain her speech. It also argues that although Mais quit her job, the racially hostile work environment created by the district forced her to quit, a violation of the Virginia Constitution and the Virginia Human Rights Act.

Mais is seeking damages and legal fees. She’s also seeking pay that she would have earned if she had remained at the job.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Mais, and also pursuing a separate lawsuit against the Albemarle County School Board.

“Instead of training faculty members to embrace students of all races, Albemarle County school officials are using a curriculum that promotes racial discrimination,” ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson said in a press release. “The training … encourages all staff members to ‘speak their truth,’ but when a white person like Emily raises concerns about the divisive content, she is deemed a racist in need of further ‘anti-racism’ instruction. Emily believes every person is made in the image of God and entitled to equal treatment and respect and refuses to participate in using harmful ideology to indoctrinate students, teachers, or staff.”

“We haven’t been formally served yet. So we really haven’t had an opportunity to review these allegations,” said Albemarle County Public Schools Strategic Communications Officer Phil Giaramita. “Once we have an opportunity to do that, we’re looking forward to  providing a response to these claims at some point in the future in the appropriate legal forum.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Emily Mais” by Emily Mais. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.

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