Elite Private School Accused of Racial Epithets, Bullying Of Hispanic Workers

Over the last 83 years, Landon School has turned thousands of boys into men. It has schooled them in the fundamentals of Western Civilization, rigorously instructed them in ethics and citizenship, and last year the private preparatory school sent 1 in 6 of its graduates off to the Ivy League.

And this week, a former executive at the school in Bethesda, Md., filed a $2 million lawsuit, claiming that he was fired for trying to put an end to a culture of discrimination there.

Tim Harrison (pictured at left with his wife), who was Landon's director of the Office of Finance and Operations, claims that several of the Hispanic maintenance workers who tend to the school's 75-acre campus have been routinely humiliated and degraded by their supervisors for years.

In a statement, the school said that Harrison's allegations were "both inaccurate and misleading," and that Landon will "defend itself accordingly."

Soon after Harrison started working at Landon in 2009, he hired a new supervisor, Pedro Robles, the former head of household at the Colombian embassy. Robles is Hispanic and bilinguial, so could easily communicate with the four Hispanic maintenance and cleaning staff members. The Hispanic employees quickly began complaining to Robles. They were bullied, they said. They were intimidated. They were abused with foul language and ethnic slurs.

Their two white supervisors, Joe Charvat and Paul Batten, regularly referred to these employees as "spics," according to Harrison's lawsuit, and one employee claimed that he overheard Charvat saying, "All Hispanics are idiots." One of Charvat's Hispanic subordinates claims in a signed affidavit, in support of Harrison's lawsuit, that "working for Charvat is torture" because he "treats me like garbage."

Another employee, who had been at Landon for 12 years, called it a "nightmare," and said in his affidavit that Charvat called Hispanic workers "stupid," "dumbass," "mother-f*****," "son of a bitch" and "piece of s***."

'A Horrible Situation'

"This has been a horrible situation for not a month or two, or a year or two, but for two decades, and it's been ignored," Harrison told AOL Jobs. "It's like nothing I've ever experienced in my working career. It's egregious, it's shameful and it needs to be stopped."

"To deal with that day in and day out, year in and year out," he added, "it brings tears to my eyes, it really does."

One day, Charvat allegedly complained to Harrison about "all the spics" working at the school. Harrison politely informed him that his own wife was from Puerto Rico. Charvat "turned red in the face," the lawsuit says.

Pedros also claimed that he was repeatedly yelled at, humiliated and abused by Charvat, and that Charvat regularly refused to work with him or let his subordinates help Robles' subordinates.

Harrison complained several times about the abuses, he says, and finally urged the school's headmaster, David M. Armstrong, to discipline or fire Charvat and Batten, but Armstrong refused.

Harrison also hired a consultant to examine the executive salaries at Landon to ensure that they were in compliance with IRS "excess benefit rules" for tax-exempt organizations, like schools. The consultant was shocked when he estimated that the headmaster's total yearly compensation package was $800,000 -- 50 percent to 70 percent higher than that of headmasters at other similarly situated schools. He said that he thought Armstrong was one of the top 10 highest compensated headmasters in the country.

Abrupt End To Employment

Harrison raised this concern to the chairman of the school's board, according to his lawsuit, and he replied that Armstrong's salary was reasonable. In January of this year, the headmaster told Harrison that the school board had "lost confidence" in him, and he wouldn't be renewing Harrison's contract.

It was a dramatic change in tone from contract time in 2011, when Armstrong had attached a handwritten note to Harrison's renewed contract, applauding his "profound skill," "entrepreneurial spirit," "out-of-the-box thinking," "superb 'first impression,'" and telling Harrison that he looked forward "to more years of working with you."

Five weeks after he was told that his contract was ending, Harrison submitted a list of the discriminatory acts to the school's board of trustees. On the next workday, Harrison was told to never to come back.

It was unlucky timing for someone whose job is based on a school-year schedule. "They essentially froze me out of the job market for at least a year," said Harrison, who has worked in these positions for over two decades. He worries about interviewing for future jobs. "The private school community is a very closed community," he said.

Harrison is now suing the school, saying that he was fired illegally out of retaliation. He seeks: reinstatement to his job, or full pay and benefits for three years; damages for lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, loss of opportunity and reputation; and punitive damages. In total, they're requesting damages in excess of $2 million. Five Hispanic employees have written affidavits in his support.

Landon denies the accusations, and says the school "has a longstanding commitment to treat all members of the community -- employees, students, and others -- fairly and without regard to race, ethnicity or gender."

"Landon has policies and procedures in place ensure that reports of improper behavior are considered promptly and fully," the statement continues, "and appropriate actions are taken."

Series Of Scandals

This is only the latest in a series of recent incidents involving Landon which seem to clash with the all-boys school's supposed focus on character and civility. In 2010, a group of its students devised a game in which they scored points for having sexual encounters with particular girls -- whose weights, heights and bra sizes were listed as if in a fantasy football league draft. The boys were caught and given a weeklong in-school suspicion -- a punishment viewed by some as light.

That same year, one of the school's former star lacrosse players and football quarterbacks, George Huguely V, was arrested after the death of his ex-girlfriend. In February, Huguely was found guilty of second degree murder.

Among the other developments, parents of Landon students have complained about a coach who allegedly told their children intimate details of his sex life and took them to Hooters, and school trustees decided to investigate the long-held suspicion that Landon treated wealthy boys and good athletes preferentially. In its account of these troubling events at Landon, The Washington Post reported that a top official said in a school assembly that he knows parents who don't want their daughters "hanging out with Landon guys."

"To us, it seems that there's a connection between these scandals of the past, and the choices of the leadership," said Adam Carter, Harrison's co-counsel and a partner at The Employment Law Group firm. "This is a once-great institution that has lost itself under this leadership."




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EM8TA

Hey wake up all people. white people haven't changed and the biggest joke is most white people are Christain like the KKK use the Bible to kill Blacks. That is way the world is so messed up white Christain are "religious" on Sunday morning but they loose that religious attitude and become hateful racist white backing stabbing idiots during the week. Now if they are truly spirtiual then that means they keep the attitude of Do unto others as you would want people to treat you.

December 15 2012 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Angela Mccoy

"Good faith and fair dealing" is an implied covenant that employees deserve to be treated fairly by their employers, especially dedicated, long-term employees. Employers can't legally terminate you solely on the basis of gender, race, creed, disability and a variety of other discriminatory reasons. But if discrimination isn't specifically covered by a law, you are not generally protected from that type of discrimination.

June 05 2012 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Helena

It was disconcerting to read about this. Anyone who has been the victim of bullying or harrassment (and let's face it, we've all probably been hurt at one time or another by something someone said) can understand how hurtful and exhausting this can be, especially with the added fear of not necessarily understanding the taunts being thrown your way. And to deal with this day after day, year after year? I truly empathize. To be subjected to the negative effects at a job you got to support your family and/or yourself, is sad...and those who would abuse their power in such ways are shameful. Let's hope this can all get resolved, and perhaps noticeable differences instituted. After all, parents are paying a LOT of money (as evidenced by the headmaster's HUGE salary alone) to give their boys the best education, and as any human being knows, this extends to moral and ethical behavior as well.

June 04 2012 at 1:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Truth

As detailed below (from DCUM) some of the messages related to this story are being posted by hired posters using false names. Only the palintiff and The Employment Law Group seem tohave a financial interest - though neither has yet accepted reponsibility for this deception.

_________________
Just to elaborate on this, one of the anti-Landon messages here was posted by fit2fight who markets his services here:

http://fiverr.com/fit2fight

He has a picture on that page.

On this article about the Landon lawsuit, a guy named "Mike Morales" posts several times using his Facebook login:

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Landon-Sch...Million-Lawsuit-156038235.html

Mike's Facebook page is here:

http://www.facebook.com/WhyThatGuy

That page also has a picture which I believe shows the same guy as fit2fight's page. At any rate, one of the comments posted on NBC 4's article matches word for word the post here by fit2fight.

Mike also shows up here (as do most posters from the NBC 4 page) as Mike Norales (with an "N" instead of an "M"):

http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/05/31/elite-priv...-of-culture-of-discrimination/

This actually is a more interesting story than the discrimination law suit.

June 04 2012 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fred Sanchez

As a Latino male, it's always disappointing when I read articles like this. Come-on people, this is 2012, not 1960. No doubt we've come a long way toward eradicating racial discrimination over the last fifty years or so, but incidents like this one constantly remind us that not everyone "got the memo" so to speak. I applaud Mr. Harrison for doing the right thing and reporting the bad conduct of others at the school. It's amazing to read that he would lose his job over it. The good news is, courts frown on firing whistle blowers acting in the public interest and I think there is a very good chance he will prevail in court. Hopefully, the court will award substantial punitive damages against the school to deter discriminatory conduct in the future. As far as conquering racial discrimination in the United States once and for all, remember, " You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."

June 03 2012 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Valerie Stevenson-Al

As I have stated in my other posts. People are always gotten rid of for standing up for the underdogs. It is a shame. One would think that if we are so advanced in science and technology that we would be advanced in equality. Hate for another race, gender or anything else is based on fear. ANY negative emotion is based on fear. Lets get rid of the negative vibes and send positive vibes into the world. If everyone would do that there WOULD be change. And to all I hold you in the light.

June 02 2012 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dianne

Oh this is ridiculous! I would not want to send my children to a school like that, where taking a stand against racism gets you fired. If that is the case, I hope he wins and I hope the higher ups at that school take notice. I'm sure all the bad press is making them regret their decision.

June 02 2012 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MicheleBakes

Granted Landon had had it's share of problems. The spoiled rich kids who believe they are entitled. They should be punished if they break the law. The Headmaster nor the previous individuals in this position ignored racism because there is no racism going on at that school The hispanics make a very good living there and are trying to ruin the reputations of good hard working men/women of that school. They are the racists thinking that others owe them a thing. They need to work hard and earn what they feel they are entitled to.

June 02 2012 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Norales

Here we go again. How many Landon scandals must we watch before the administration finally makes some changes in the way they teach their students? If it isn't cheating on the SAT exams it's the hard partying of the lacrosse team to murder when one of their alum; George Huguely broke down a door and murdered Yeardley Love. Now the headmaster is accused of ignoring discrimination for 18 years against its Hispanic employees. Does this surprise anyone?

June 02 2012 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MicheleBakes

This is just a case of a disgruntled ex employee attempting to extort money from a private school. This person was dismissed and led to believe it was for being a "whistleblower". This is incorrect. He was incompetent & running the school into the ground financially. The members involved have worked there for many years why bring this out now? Why not earlier to an organization that could represent them? Most staff members are treated with respect as long as they deserve it. The staff at this particular institution are not racists the inviduals trying to gain monetarily are the racists.

June 02 2012 at 2:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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