Civil rights lawsuit claims Lafayette schools officials manipulated Schools of Choice lottery

Posted at 2:11 PM, Apr 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-16 15:11:54-04

A former Lafayette Parish School System employee’s lawsuit claims administration officials manipulated the Schools of Choice lotteries, discouraged students from enrolling in ESL programs and misreported school demographics required under the federal desegregation order.

Azadeh Yazdi filed the suit last week. The former marketing and recruiting coordinator alleges in the civil rights claim that when she brought the issues to her supervisors’ attention, they retaliated by reporting "detrimental comments" to Superintendent Don Aguillard, whom she claims also ignored her concerns and ultimately fired her.

Aguillard is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as well as Chief Academic Officer Annette Samec, Career and Technical Education Director Robin Olivier, Enrollment and Recruitment Manager Barbara Pippin and Foreign Language/Immersion Specialist Tia LeBrun.

Suit: Lottery, enrollment figures manipulated; ESL discouraged

A federal desegregation order led to the creation of the school system’s Schools of Choice program, which allows students to attend specialized programs at schools outside of their school district. Because the programs are popular, the school system uses a random lottery for student entry.

Yazdi accuses Pippin, Olivier and Samec of violating the system and federal law "by favoring those they choose to favor to get into the Schools of Choice programs, while taking persons who had legitimate lottery positions and advising them that they simply ‘had been excluded,’ because there were too many students in the program," according to the lawsuit.

Yazdi claims that when she brought up her concerns, her supervisor, Olivier, recommended her for termination. She said Olivier, Samec and Pippin then "made up detrimental stories" of Yazdi’s job performance to Aguillard.

Yazdi also claims that students were discouraged from trying to enter the English-as-a-Second-Language program, known as ESL, because LeBrun, Olivier and Samec "did not favor the program.

"Their advice to these people was not for the good of the parent or the student, but was done in a manner to relieve LeBrun, Olivier, Samec and Pippin of the obligation of oversight of the program and to further manipulate both race, color and creed at various sites and to manipulate the enrollment of the Spanish Immersion program," Yazdi claims in the lawsuit.

Yazdi also claims that Aguillard and Samec manipulated N.P. Moss racial demographics in an annual required report to the federal court, and she claims they did not report the lottery’s racial demographics. Further, Yazdi claims Samec and Pippin would wait until the annual report "was prepared and sent to the court before making wholesale transfer of students from schools in order to subvert the racial and socioeconomic makeup at the schools and hide discrimination which took place as a result thereof."

Terminated employee claims retaliation

Yazdi claims that the retaliatory action against her for raising concerns with these issues included a new contract that allowed her to be fired without cause — and threatened retaliation against her if she didn’t sign it — and she further alleges that Samec and Olivier made comments to her that were sexual in nature.

"Specifically, on an occasion when Annette Samec was with plaintiff alone in an office, and after there had been disagreement over a number of items, Samec, who had invited plaintiff into her office, in the course of the conversation with the two of them alone, stated "I don’t know how Robin was able to focus during a meeting among the three of us, because I could not stop staring at your legs. Skirts are okay to wear, but just be mindful that your legs can be a distraction," Yazdi claims in the petition.

Because Yazdi Samec of offering her a new contract that would allow her to be terminated without cause, threatened retaliatory action against Yazdi if she chose not to sign it. She further claims that Samec sexually harassed her

Yazdi claims that when she addressed these issues with Aguillard, he fired her.

Lane Roy, who represents terminated superintendent Pat Cooper, filed the suit on behalf of Yazdi.

Read the full document here.