September 27, 2010
A federal jury has awarded a $303,178 verdict to a Colorado Springs man who sued Colorado Springs School District 11, alleging he was passed over for teaching jobs because he is black.
On Friday, after a week-long trial, the jury in U.S. District Court in Denver found in favor of George Christopher Ash, who formerly held temporary teaching jobs at North Middle School and Doherty High School.
The jury awarded Ash $150,000 in punitive damages, $100,000 in non-economic damages and $53,178, according to his attorney Andrew T. Brake. Still to be determined are the amounts for future salary and attorney’s fees, Brake said.
“Mr. Ash was an excellent teacher and role model for young men and would have contributed greatly to District 11,” Brake said.
A spokeswoman for District 11 declined comment on the verdict.
“We can’t talk about it at this point,” Elaine Naleski said. “The district is still meeting with our legal people and we’ll be deciding what our next step will be.”
Ash, 45, sued the district in 2007 alleging that he applied for a social studies job at North that went to a white teacher. In his suit, Ash claimed that he has a degree in history and political science while the job went to a physical education teacher with 24 credits in social sciences.
When a job teaching night school at Doherty ended, his contract was not renewed. In both cases, Ash said school administrators told him he was “not a good fit.” Ash went on to work other jobs as a banquet server and security guard and is currently unemployed, his lawyer said.
Lawyers for District 11 contested the allegation of racial discrimination. They noted that Ash was hired in 2004 as a substitute teacher and then accepted a job that he knew was temporary. That job ended at a time of budgetary constraints that forced the principal to eliminate two and one-half teaching jobs.
Both Ash and the other candidate for the social studies job were “highly qualified” but the candidate who got the position had four years experience and won the job based on seniority and qualifications, the district lawyers said.
For more court coverage, visit “The Sidebar” blog at gazette.com