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Black Employees File Racial Discrimination Suit Against Black Superintendent

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File photo of a school bus. (credit: Gary C. Knapp/Getty Images)

File photo of a school bus. (credit: Gary C. Knapp/Getty Images)

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TUKWILA, Wash. (CBS Seattle/AP) — Nine employees of the Tukwila School District have filed complaints of racial discrimination against their superintendent for allegedly making inappropriate comments.

A group of female staffers at Showalter Middle School says the superintendent, Ethelda Burke, once referred to them as slaves. Burke is herself black.

“I couldn’t believe my ears she would refer to professional African-American women as slaves,” teacher Sandra Goins told NWCN-TV.

Athletic and activities director J.D. Hill claimed that Burke “makes racially derogatory statements.” Hill also wrote in his complaint that Burke said he was hiring too many people of color and said he was “making the district look too black” and turning her district into a “ghetto.”

“When I walked into her office she said, ‘Hey, J-Dark, how are you doing?’ J-Dark was my name for Ethelda, my pet name for a month, in a professional environment,” Hill told NWCN.

Staffers told NWCN they were hesitant to complain about Burke because she is black.

“If she wasn’t a person of color, me personally, I would have gone after her long before now,” bus driver Ritchie Coleman told the station.

The employees’ attorney filed the complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The district, the superintendent, and the board declined to comment citing personnel issues.

Joan Mell, the attorney representing the employees, has written a letter asking the board for Burke’s immediate suspension.

Burke came to the Tukwila district in 2007 from Tacoma.

The Tukwila school district is one of the most diverse in the state; seventy percent of the children are minorities.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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