A group of public school employees in Washington state are outraged by the racially insensitive remarks they said their superintendent has made in the workplace, MSNBC Seattle reports.
The nine employees at Tukwila School District, near the city of Tacoma, have filed formal complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The group said they're shocked by the comments, particularly because the superintendent Ethelda Burke is a black woman.
Amongst the complaints, two staffers at Showalter Middle School asserted that Burke referred to them as slaves.
"I couldn't believe my ears that she would refer to professional African American women as slaves," said Sandra Goins, a teacher at the school.
The school district's athletic and activities director J.D. Hill said Burke "makes racially derogatory statements." Hill wrote in his complaint that Burke said he was hiring too many people of color and said he was "making the district look too black" and turning her district into a "ghetto."
"When I walked in her office, she said 'Hey J. Dark, how you doing?'" Hill said. "J. Dark was my name from Ethelda, that was my pet name for months."
According to Washington's Higher Education Coordinating Board Burke has a K-12 background, with "more than 35 years of experience working in school districts as a high school teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent for high school education, and deputy superintendent." The site also says she served on the University of Washington's Professional Education advisory board. Burke took her current position in Tukwila after leaving Tacoma Public Schools in 2007.
The Tukwila School Board and Burke have declined to comment on the remarks. However, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Joan Mell, the attorney representing the nine employees, has written a letter asking the board for Burke's immediate suspension.