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Discrimination case filed against Grand Forks Public Schools

GRAND FORKS, N.d.--A Grand Forks woman has filed a complaint against Grand Forks Public Schools alleging discrimination on the basis of race and color.

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Dr. Larry Nybladh is the new Superintendent of schools in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS, N.d.-A Grand Forks woman has filed a complaint against Grand Forks Public Schools alleging discrimination on the basis of race and color.

According to the complaint filed with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights, received Oct. 28, Giselle Elias submitted her first application for employment with the school district Feb. 20, 2016, and by the date of the complaint, had submitted 19 applications and interviewed for three positions.

Elias said the positions she interviewed for by the date of the complaint include a district literacy coach, a family and consumer sciences teaching position at Valley Middle School and a Title I coordinator position at Lake Agassiz Elementary.

According to Elias, she had the first of those interviews, for the district literacy coach position, via Skype in June. As stated in the complaint, the interview took place approximately two days after she added "white" to the demographic page in the online application form. According to Elias, who is black, she made the decision to change her demographic information after she had submitted several applications unsuccessfully.

The complaint alleges that Elias was told July 15 by Tracy Abentroth, the district's human resources director, that she did not get the literacy coach position because she "was not the right fit" and, with regard to Elias' submitted applications that did not lead to interviews, "principals have the right to select who they want to interview."

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Although Elias is not licensed to teach family and consumer sciences, she said she was invited to apply for the teaching position at Valley Middle School upon meeting with Abentroth in July, as no other applications for the opening had yet been received.

According to the complaint, Elias was told July 29 by the family and consumer sciences coordinator that the position "was given to an applicant who showed up out of nowhere with a license."

The complaint also states Lake Agassiz Elementary Principal Amy Bartsch contacted Elias Aug. 5 with an update on the status of the Title I coordinator position, telling her that "the position would not be filled after all and the money would be directed elsewhere."

Elias' complaint says that her "issues stem from the reasons that (she is) being given for not securing a job."

"It just seemed odd that me trying to get a job in a place where I reside is being so difficult when you have so many vacancies posted and I am highly qualified," she said.

Elias said she has been working in education since January 1990, including work in elementary and middle school education and with teacher licensure classes.

Elias alleges in the complaint that during a second meeting with Abentroth on Aug. 19, she asked for guidance on how to make her applications successful, and Abentroth said Elias "was not doing anything wrong."

Further, according to the complaint, Elias had a third meeting with Abentroth on Sept. 14 and asked for specific reasons why each application was unsuccessful. Abentroth told her she "(did not) have that information off the top of (her) head."

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District Superintendent Larry Nybladh responded in an email from the district's communications coordinator, Tracy Jentz, to a request for comment on Elias' discrimination complaint.

"While district officials do not agree with the allegations in the complaint, we will follow the due process procedure as set forth by the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights," he said.

The complaint is currently under investigation.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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