Shannon Blick, 39, a former elementary school principal in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says she is the victim of reverse discrimination and has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the school district. She alleges that she was fired from her job because she is white.
Blick had served as the principal of Lawton Elementary School since 2013. Her lawyers allege in the federal complaint that Blick was terminated in order to clear the way for the district to replace her with an African-American candidate.
Blick is seeking $5 million in damages, according to the complaint which was filed in Michigan Eastern District Court on July 20, 2019.
Heavy reached out to Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Communications Director, Andrew Cluley, via email to ask how the district plans to respond. He responded, “The Ann Arbor Public Schools has not been served with a copy of the complaint. The AAPS does not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Shannon Blick Alleges That the Assistant Principal, a Black Woman, Wanted Her Job
Shannon Blick began working at Lawton Elementary School on September 16, 2013, according to the federal complaint. Her lawyers wrote that Blick had an “exemplary employment record” during her tenure as principal.
Blick alleges that district leaders began treating her differently after hiring Taneia Giles as the Assistant Principal. Giles, who is black, is named as one of the co-defendants in the lawsuit. Blick says that Dawn Linden, the Executive Director of Elementary Education for Ann Arbor Public Schools, told her that Giles was hired without having to go through an interview process because district leaders “were afraid they might lose a minority administrator.” Giles was hired at Lawton after reporting offensive behavior at another school within the district where she had been working.
Blick and her attorneys accuse Giles of “coveting” Blick’s job and that the district forced her out in order to promote Giles. The lawsuit states that Blick was “treated disparately, harassed, berated, lied to, humiliated, intimated, threatened and ultimately suspended without notice or cause and constructively terminated on April 26, 2019 because of her Caucasian race and because Giles, an African American, coveted Ms. Blick’s position as Principal of Lawton.”
The lawsuit goes on to accuse Ann Arbor Public Schools of routinely “inhibiting and stepping on the civil rights of Caucasian and non-minority administrators when African American and minority administrators covet Caucasian and non-minority administrators’ legitimately earned and obtained positions, seniority, pay, jobs or duties.”
As referenced above, the school district has not yet publicly commented on Blick’s allegations.
2. Shannon Blick Was Placed on Administrative Leave in April of 2019 & Told That She Was Blamed for a Janitor’s Alleged Theft
Shannon Blick and her attorneys explain in the lawsuit that she became aware of a threat to her job during a get-together of principals at Blick’s own home on April 17, 2019. She says Mike Madison, the Principal of Dicken Elementary School, told her that she would have to “go on medical leave until the end of the school year and come back in August and hide out as an Assistant Principal at a middle school until the dust settles.”
Madison was referring to an investigation into a school janitor, identified as Willie Johnson. He was accused of stealing $25,000 over four years. The district was apparently holding Blick responsible.
Blick says she then received a letter on April 26, 2019, that informed her she was being placed on administrative paid leave immediately. She was further barred from entering school property and told not to speak with students or parents about what was going on. On April 30, Blick was asked to submit a letter of resignation.
Her work email was also shut down that day without warning. Blick explains in the lawsuit that she reached out to tech support to ask if there was a problem with her email. She says Madison called her on the phone and screamed at her for having reached out to a district employee. Madison told her that she was banned from speaking to any employees of Ann Arbor Public Schools while she was on leave and told her quote, “They have you bent over a barrel and you just have to take it.”
On May 1, the district sent an email to all staff explaining that Blick was on leave, that the duration was unknown, and that “she asks that you please respect her privacy.” Blick says this statement was false, and that she never made such a request.
During a meeting with the district officials named in the lawsuit, Blick says they made “outrageous, humiliating, inhumane and patently false accusations regarding Ms. Blick’s conduct.” They informed her that a group of parents were planning to attend a public meeting on May 8, 2019, and planned to speak out in support of Blick. Dawn Linden, the Executive Director of Elementary Education, demanded Blick reach out to the parents and ask them not to speak on her behalf, Blick says. Blick complied.
Her attorneys said the meeting with school officials caused Blick “severe emotional distress, she was hyperventilating, crying and in emotional turmoil, such that the meeting repeatedly had to be halted so that Ms. Blick could try to breathe and drink water.”
3. Shannon Blick’s Three Children Attend Lawton Elementary
Shannon Blick is married with three children, all of whom attend Lawton Elementary School. According to the lawsuit, Blick’s 10-year-old daughter was allegedly singled out by Taneia Giles while Blick was going through the aforementioned meetings with officials.
Blick says Giles instructed her daughter’s teacher to tell the child to “cease accompanying her friend who was recovering from surgery; Giles stated that ‘Ms. Blick’s kids needed to be integrated and not receive the perks of having their Mom at school.'”
Blick and her lawyers say that she has not been able to “freely associate” with her children’s teachers, or other parents since she was first put on leave in April. Since she had been barred from the campus, Blick was also prohibited from attending her child’s fifth-grade graduation ceremony in June.
4. Shannon Blick is Demanding $5 Million in Damages
Shannon Blick and her lawyers argue that she was never given a legitimate reason for her suspension or termination. She also was never granted a hearing to defend herself.
The lawsuit states: “At no point, either before Ms. Blick’s suspension or during the three (3) months following the suspension, was Ms. Blick given notice of a basis, whether legal, procedural or otherwise, for Blick’s suspension; nor was Ms. Blick provided or allowed a hearing to contest her suspension, address grounds for her suspension, if any, or to refute any allegations against her.”
She is demanding damages in the amount of $5 million for “economic loss, extreme emotional distress and damage to business reputation.”
5. Shannon Blick Taught First & Second Grade Before Becoming a School Principal
Shannon Blick’s profile was still visible on the Ann Arbor Public Schools website as of July 24. The page still lists her as the principal of Lawton Elementary School.
Blick earned her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan in 2003. According to the lawsuit, Blick received her master’s degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy from Walden University in 2007, which is an online university based in Minneapolis. She also earned a certification in Reading Recovery from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan.
Blick previously taught first and second grade at Wayne-Westland Community Schools, which is part of the metro Detroit area. She was promoted to principal in that district before relocating to Ann Arbor.
Blick described her education philosophy on the website, writing that she believes that “we, as educators, have the great privilege of finding and igniting the brilliance that will inspire each child to grow into a passionate and caring adult who will make a positive difference in our society.”