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Rahm Emanuel’s pick to head CPS sued for age, sex discrimination

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Chicago’s next Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was named in two federal lawsuits during his three years as superintendent of the Rochester, NY school district, including one that accused Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s controversial pick of age discrimination.

Both lawsuits were filed last July.

The first accuses Brizard of firing Marilynn Patterson Grant, Rochester’s former deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, “without cause” last year after making several derogatory comments about her age. Grant, who is 58, had worked for the Rochester City School District for 35 years.

The suit alleges that Brizard, 47, told Grant and other high-ranking school officials “you all are old,” and also said during a citywide principal’s meeting that “in teaching, age matters.”

In addition, Brizard allegedly suggested that the reason there was tension between Grant and two other black women during a meeting was a “case” of “strong black women.”

Last June, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found probable cause that Grant had been fired because of her sex, age and race.

Brizard could not be reached for comment Saturday, but said in an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about Grant’s firing that the claims in her lawsuit were “without basis” and that he’d had “concerns” about her performance.

“I would never disparage someone with experience,” Brizard told the paper. “I value people with experience.”

An outside investigation commissioned by the Rochester Board of Education found no evidence of bias last summer. “. . .looking solely at these comments as recounted by the witnesses, we do conclude that the Superintendent did not have any unlawful discriminatory animus in making these remarks,” the report from the Buffalo-based law firm said.

A second lawsuit, filed by a former coordinator for homeless children and families, alleged that Brizard had instituted a policy of sending teachers under investigation to an alternative work location called a “rubber room” as a form of punishment.

In her suit, the coordinator, Roseann Kilduff, said she had been assigned to the rubber room for five months “where she languished doing nothing all day.” Kilduff also claimed that she wasn’t told of the allegations against her during that time.

The suit says the rubber room was used “as a form of punishment for teachers whom the school district wanted to fire.”

The Rochester Teachers Association has filed class-action grievances against the “punitive and insensitive” practice, and since then, referrals to the rubber room have declined, union president Adam Urbanski said.

Emanuel named Brizard as his pick for Chicago Public Schools CEO on April 18. Since then, Brizard has been accused of exaggerating his accomplishments in Rochester and violating the terms of his new three-year contract there by resigning without the school board’s approval.

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