A female Japanese-American teacher has recently filed a lawsuit against a Michigan public school and its principal, with allegations of racial discrimination and a violation of her right to free speech.
Mika Yamamoto, a fifth-grade teacher at Renaissance Public School Academy in Mt. Pleasant, was allegedly fired after giving a speech in front of 100 middle school students back in November, The Morning Sun reported.
According to her complaint filed Jan. 25 at a local district court, Yamamoto spoke about “matters of public concern including domestic violence and discrimination against women.”
She is now demanding a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Northern Division in Bay City. In the suit, Yamamoto alleges that Renaissance Public School Academy and Principal Lisa Bergman violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The suit alleges that Yamamoto’s dismissal was racially motivated, adding that the school has “maintained a policy and practice of refusing to employ or retain individuals of color.”
Yamamoto’s lawyer, Julie A Gafkay of Frankenmuth, said the former teacher “engaged in constitutionally protected speech” as an author and not as a teacher at the school on Nov. 9.
In an interview, Yamamoto said that the middle-school teachers had previously asked her to give a talk about how to write horror, and it just happened to have been slated for the day after Trump won.
“I remember thinking, “What is there to say on a day like this?” she told MarkMaynard.com.
She then talked about writing from experience.
“As a woman and a domestic violence survivor. I discussed Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which is about a mother that has to choose between either a life of slavery for her children or death. Women’s lives have always been horrific, I said, so it makes sense that we write horror.”
She then noted that on that particular day, after Trump’s win, “I felt less safe than ever because our country had just elected a president who had openly spoken out against women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other people he felt were different than him. I told the students that I saw this as a call to arms to share our stories honestly in order to make safe space.”
A few days later, the principal would tell her that “a huge Trump-supporting” white male student went home and complained about it to his family.
“I remember that he’d tried to walk out when I said that women make less than men across the board. He was apparently made uncomfortable by this fact,” Yamamoto said.
Court documents stated that Bergman reportedly told Yamamoto to leave school and “come back in two days for a meeting to discuss ‘diversity and tolerance’ issues with Bergman and the curriculum director.”
It further alleges that Bergman told Yamamoto that “the community wasn’t ready for (Yamamoto), who was an individual of color.”
Yamamoto was fired on Dec. 7. Since no pre-termination hearing was conducted, Yamamoto is complaining that she was not given fair notice of why she was fired nor allowed to respond.
Yamamoto is now seeking for “back pay or damages for lost earnings with interest and compensatory damages for mental anguish, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, and damage to her professional reputation.”
“We do not discriminate under any circumstances,” Bergman was quoted as saying as a response to questions regarding the lawsuit. “We also have clear policies that are designed to protect all kids in the building.”
She further stated that the school is proud of its policies and does not discriminate under any circumstances.
The court has given Bergman and the school until Feb. 25 to respond to the complaint.