Black School Employees Accuse Black Supervisor Of Racism

Ethelda Burke racial discrimination schoolThere's no shortage of cases in which workers claim they've been discriminated against by a supervisor because of race. But it's unusual for employees to formally complain of racism from a fellow member of a minority.

Yet, that's the scenario that's played out in suburban Seattle, where nine black employees of the Tukwila School District have filed complaints of racial discrimination against their superintendent, Ethelda Burke -- who is also black, Seattle television station KING reports (via

An attorney for the nine workers, who include vice principals, teachers and dispatchers, has filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and has asked the school board to immediately suspend Burke (pictured at left).

Some of the employees described to the TV station some of the comments that they've gotten from their supervisor, who came to the district five years ago:

"She said to me you have to stop being a big, black man scaring our white drivers," said Doc Fells, a driver trainer and dispatcher for the district. "And it numbed me."

Female staff at a middle school in the district said that Burke once referred to them as slaves.

"I was pissed," said Marva Harris, a school security officer.

"I couldn't believe my ears -- she would refer to professional African-American women as slaves," teacher Sandra Goins said.

The charges are especially surprising given the district's racial diversity -- more than two-thirds of students are non-white.

"For me, I feel a sense of betrayal," Harris said. "That I'm betraying her, because she's a black woman."

KING reports that Harris and other district officials declined comment about the allegations, citing personnel issues.

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