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Teacher's Race-Bias Suit Revived

A school administrator's alleged statement to a black teacher that "white people teach black kids ... better than someone from their own race" was direct evidence of race discrimination, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, unanimously revived the race-bias lawsuit of the teacher, Mary King, against the Columbia, Mo., district and Russell Hardesty, an administrator in the district.

King alleges that while she worked in a substitute teaching job in the district, Hardesty made several racially derogatory comments, including the comment that white teachers were better at teaching African-American students. She contends she lost her substitute teaching job and assignments as a teacher of homebound students after complaining about the administrator's conduct.

According to court papers, Hardesty denies making any of the discriminatory statements alleged in King's suit. Because the appeals court was reviewing a federal district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants, it viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to King.

Hardesty's alleged comment about white people teaching black students better "revealed a decidedly negative attitude toward African-American people on the part of a person responsible for the employment decision," the appeals panel said in its Feb. 29 opinion.

The case of King v. Hardesty now returns to the district court for further proceedings.

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