Former Virginia administrator sues school board, alleging racial harassment

Elementary school's case linked to debate over critical race theory

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A former school administrator in Virginia is embroiled in a legal battle over what she says was a racially hostile work environment.

Emily Mais was an assistant principal at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School until last September, when she claimed she was forced out of her job over accusations of harassment and racism.

Mais was participating in a training session based on a book called "Courageous Conversations about Race," which Albemarle County School District began using in 2019. The book gives positive and negative characteristics to people based on race and says racism can be committed only by the "dominant race," referring to White people.

"Courageous Conversations" was mentioned explicitly in a February report from Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Balow as an example of critical race theory-based curricula in Virginia schools. The report was conducted in response to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's first executive orders to review and identify divisive concepts in public schools.

Former assistant principal Emily Mais, in a photo provided by her attorney.

Former assistant principal Emily Mais, in a photo provided by her attorney.

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During the training session, Mais used the term "colored people" instead of "people of color" when asking about one of the presentation slides, which attorney Kate Anderson described as a "slip of the tongue" for which Mais immediately apologized. 

"Another teacher who was in that training began berating her in front of others, even though she had apologized," Anderson told Fox News. "The district started calling her into meetings and telling her that her apologies didn't matter. They didn't care if it was a slip of the tongue."

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Anderson said the bigger issue was that Mais disagreed with the teachings. 

"She's branded a troublemaker for speaking out against a policy that was overtly racist to students," Anderson said. "It told teachers that they had to treat students differently based on their race. Teach them differently, grading them differently, discipline them differently."

The complaint alleged that when Mais voiced her concerns about the curriculum, "she was branded a racist, severely and pervasively harassed, relentlessly humiliated and ultimately compelled to resign from a job that she loved to preserve her mental health."

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Mais said when she went to her principal, Mike Irani, he refused to take any action, according to Mais' complaint. She submitted her resignation in August and resigned in September. She filed a complaint against the Albemarle County School board late last week.

A spokesperson for the board told Fox News it had not received the suit and therefore could not offer further comment in response to it.