Ex-Bridgeport school official’s lawsuit claims reverse discrimination

March 12, 2019

A former Bridgeport assistant superintendent of schools has sued the city school district claiming she was laid off because she has a disability and is white, the Connecticut Law Tribune reported.

In her reverse-discrimination federal lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut against the Bridgeport Board of Education, Deborah Santacapita said her position was eliminated while two black assistant superintendents who were less qualified kept their jobs.

The lawsuit - first reported by Connecticut Law Tribune - states it would not have happened if Santacapita were black.

“The defendant and its superintendent of schools have stated that a goal for the defendant was to increase the number of minority educators that it employs,” the lawsuit states. “A motivating factor in the defendant’s decision to lay off the plaintiff as opposed to laying off [her two black peers] was its goal of increasing the number of minority educators in its employ.”

Most students in the Bridgeport school district are minorities.

The lawsuit further states that “[o]ther than for her race and color, the plaintiff would not have been laid off by the defendant.” The lawsuit cites violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.

Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Aresta Johnson, City and Board of Education attorney R. Christopher Meyer and the two black assistant superintendents did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

When Johnson took the job as superintendent in 2017 she hired four assistant superintendents. Subsequent budget cuts forced the elimination of two the following year. One, John Lischner, who was white, left for another job. Janet Brown Clayton and Christina Otuwa, who are black, remain.

Santicapita, before rising to assistant superintendent, had been a teacher, associate principal, principal, and director of assessment, evaluation and research.

The lawsuit maintains that Santacapita, who was employed in various roles at the school district from 1995 to July 2018, informed Johnson in March 2018 that she was suffering from advanced degenerative disc disease and stenosis for which she might need surgery at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The disease substantially limits a person’s major life activities, including standing, bending, walking and working.