LOS ANGELES (CN) - The first black principal of Beverly Hills High School claims in court that school administrators retaliated against him and his family after he complained about racism at the school.
Carter Paysinger on Wednesday sued Beverly Hills Unified School District and school board member Lewis Hall, in Federal Court.
Paysinger claims he is a "victim of a malicious campaign of discrimination and retaliation," and accuses school administrators of "blatant racism."
Paysinger, who describes himself as "one of the most highly decorated educators in the history of the school," claims Hall and board members Lisa Korbatov and Brian Goldberg told him, among other things, that "it would be easier for Mr. Paysinger if he had lighter skin."
Neither Korbatov nor Goldberg are parties to the complaint.
"District officials have repeatedly made racially discriminatory statements to or about Mr. Paysinger. District board member Ms. Korbatov told Mr. Paysinger that 'one of the problems that you will have is that you do not look like what a principal of Beverly Hills High School should look like,'" the lawsuit states.
It continues: "On information and belief, Ms. Korbatov has made other derogatory statements about minorities. When confronted with these statements, she responded, 'Yeah, I said it. That's how I am.' For his part, defendant Lewis Hall said he did not trust Mr. Paysinger because of 'where he is from.' Dr. Brian Goldberg, Board vice president, said: 'It would be easier [for Mr. Paysinger] if he had lighter skin,' and that '[Mr. Paysinger] looks more intelligent when he wears glasses.'" (Brackets in complaint.)
Paysinger says he responded to the abuse by filing several complaints with the school district. He says the school district "responded with hostility, anger, and more abusive discrimination and retaliation and, in the process, violated every legal obligation bestowed upon them."
After Paysinger submitted a complaint in January this year, he claims, Hall, Korbatov and the school district leaked details of it to the Beverly Hills Courier newspaper.
In February, he says, the school district got in touch with Los Angeles Times reporters and disclosed "false and defamatory information" on an earlier, allegedly retaliatory, investigation of Paysinger in relation to his operation of the Beverly Hills Sports Academy, a summer sports program. Paysinger claims that a criminal complaint made "unfounded assertions of conflicts of interest" and was rejected by prosecutors.
Reporting on the new lawsuit, the Times said a law firm hired by the district had concluded in its report that Paysinger had failed to report $40,000 in earnings, among other alleged ethical violations.
But Paysinger says the Feb. 4 Times article relied on "false information," causing him "irreparable damage."
According to Paysinger, the school district retaliated against his family, demoting his brother from his position as athletic director. He also claims that the school hires more whites and pays them more than minority employees.
"Through this lawsuit, Mr. Paysinger intends to expose defendants' pervasive misconduct and make sure no employee or student in the Beverly Hills Unified School District will ever again be judged by the color of his or her skin or retaliated against for exercising his or her rights," the complaint states.
Paysinger seeks damages for retaliation, discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation, and other charges.
He is represented by Reed Aljian, with Daily Aljian of Newport Beach.
The attorney told the Times: "This case is about far more than racism. It is about a board of education that has repeatedly retaliated against Mr. Paysinger because he decided to stand up to them and report their illegal activities."
Hall denied the comments attributed to him in the lawsuit.
"The allegations in the complaint are without merit and the board of education will be vigorously defending its position," Hall said, according to the Times.
Goldberg claimed that Paysinger had filed the suit to coincide with his planned memoirs.
"It's to increase interest in the book so hopefully he gets a movie deal out of it, make a lot of money and use Beverly Hills High," Goldberg reportedly said.
"I really don't think, given these accusations that he's made, that he has the ability to be an effective leader at the high school," Goldberg added. "I don't see how he can work with the board and superintendent when he's making false accusations about racism."