CHICAGO
10/06/2011 11:34 am ET Updated Dec 05, 2011

Teacher Sues CPS, Claiming Discrimination On Basis Of His HIV Status, Race

A Chicago public school teacher filed a lawsuit against the city's Board of Education and his school's principal because he claims he was discriminated against -- because he is HIV-positive and African-American.

Jumeck Smith, an elementary teacher at Von Humboldt School, filed a lawsuit [PDF] in U.S. District Court Wednesday against the Chicago Board of Education claiming that he has been "treated less favorably than similarly situated teachers who are not African American." He also says he was denied the accommodations that he needs, due to his being HIV-positive, by Alexandria Sophia Guilamo, the school's principal.

Smith claims that the school punished him for repeated allegations of tardiness, while other, non-white teachers did not receive similar discipline, in addition to denying him supplies and equipment he needs in the classroom. He further claims that Guilamo "routinely" sent him offensive e-mails and told students that Smith "deprived them of competent instruction" as part of a work environment he says was "hostile and abusive" on a daily basis.

Smith, who reportedly filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a right-to-sue letter, is seeking damages totaling $325,000.

Civil rights attorney Christopher Cooper, who is representing Smith, was also, at one point last fall, a mayoral candidate. Cooper also represented Felony Franks in their two-year quest to put up a sign advertising their business.

Cooper told the Chicago Tribune that his client's lawsuit "may be the end of his teaching career," but that he is "ready for it."