Second bias complaint filed against Amherst school district 

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 08-08-2023 5:48 PM

AMHERST — For the second time this summer, a Black woman who has worked for the Amherst public schools has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging discrimination by the district and its leaders.

Lamikco Magee, a special education department leader at the Amherst Regional Middle School until her July 14 resignation, filed the complaint on the basis of her sex, her race and for retaliation. The complaint was filed with the state agency Monday.

“I believe I was discriminated against because of my race/ color and sex,” Magee wrote in an overview that contains 18 allegations against the district. “Furthermore, I believe respondent retaliated against me for raising concerns about racial discrimination by not selecting me for promotions.”

Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham, who has been on administrative leave since May, filed a similar complaint on the basis of her sex and her race, as well as religion, on June 30. Cunningham was placed on leave by Douglas Slaughter, the acting superintendent at the time, just days after a contentious Regional School Committee meeting focusing on alleged transphobic actions by middle school counselors that are subject of a Title IX complaint. Those counselors allegedly didn’t intervene when gender-based bullying was taking place and introduced prayer to the school, according to families of schoolchildren involved.

Magee, past president of the Amherst Pelham Education Association, the union representing teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical staff, elaborates that her complaint stems from several actions, including being passed over as a finalist for middle school principal in late winter, which came to light at that May meeting.

Magee wrote in an email that there has been a history of racial discrimination in the schools and alleges that Superintendent Michael Morris, even after receiving what she contends are constant complaints by Black staff, “continues to allow racial discrimination against Black staff to run rampant.”

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“In addition to discrimination against Blacks, other marginalized groups have been ignored after reporting acts of discrimination, bullying and retaliation,” Magee wrote in her email. “The School Committee fails to hold Dr. Morris accountable and has ignored the no confidence vote by the Amherst Pelham Education Association, the local union.”

“The APEA has allied with marginalized staff, students, and families to fight discrimination in all its forms,” she wrote. “The School Committee and Dr. Morris have ignored the APEA’s requests to collaborate on the design of programs and systems that will dismantle institutional oppression.

Morris wrote in an email Tuesday that the district had not yet received formal notice of Magee’s complaint, only a courtesy copy.

“As this matter is in litigation, we will not comment on the substance of the complaint,” Morris said. “I will simply state that we look forward to defending against Ms. Magee’s complaint.”

Magee has been a teacher in the district since September 2016 and in 2019 became a special education department leader.

Aspects of the complaint indicate that problems have been ongoing for the duration of her tenure as a department leader. “I expressed concerns about respondent retaliating against employees of color and miscategorizing students of color, specifically within special education services,” Magee wrote.

Magee applied in early 2022 to become a special education administrator, positions that were held exclusively by white women. Though another Black woman landed the job, Magee wrote that she was likely not selected because of her complaints in the past.

One of those included an Office of Civil Rights complaint field on behalf of students based on discrimination because of race. She said she also was not allowed to participate in a student’s Individualized Education Program meetings, despite being a special education department leader.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>