The principal of Beverly Hills High School filed a federal lawsuit against the school district Wednesday, alleging that officials routinely ignored his complaints of racial discrimination and retaliated against him through attacks in the media, harassment and by denying job opportunities to him and his family.
In a 32-page complaint filed in federal court, Carter Paysinger, who became principal in 2010, accused the Beverly Hills Unified School District of a host of charges. The complaint cites discriminatory comments by board members toward the African American administrator and deliberate leaks of information to the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers.
It also alleges that the district failed to investigate complaints of misconduct by officials, that it intends to unfairly demote Paysinger’s family members and that a pay disparity exists between him and other administrators in the district, who are white.
Paysinger’s attorney, Reed Aljian, said in a statement that the school board mounted a coordinated effort to destroy Paysinger’s career and reputation.
“This case is about far more than racism. It is about a Board of Education that has repeatedly retaliated against Mr. Paysinger because he decided to stand up to them and report their illegal activities,” Aljian said, on behalf of Paysinger.
Beverly Hills schools Supt. Gary Woods declined to comment.
Paysinger and the district have been embroiled in a dispute since articles in The Times last year found that the Beverly Hills Sports Academy, a for-profit camp held on the high school campus, was operated by Paysinger and two school employees.
The district hired a law firm to investigate the arrangements.
The report from the law firm found a number of financial and ethical improprieties related to the camp—including Paysinger’s failure to report more than $40,000 in earnings. The review found that Paysinger probably violated the district’s conflict-of-interest and ethics rules, among other things.
Paysinger alleges that board member Lewis Hall provided the report to The Times and that member Lisa Korbatov released several internal complaints filed by Paysinger to the Beverly Hills Courier, a local weekly newspaper. He also alleges that the school district did not investigate the source of the leak.
Paysinger also claims the school district filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office that launched an investigation into Paysinger’s involvement with the sports camp. Paysinger alleges the district then alerted The Times to the investigation, to further discredit him.
The district attorney’s office cleared Paysinger, and the camp, of any criminal wrongdoing.
The lawsuit claims that Korbatov once told Paysinger “one of the problems that you will have is that you do not look like what a principal of Beverly Hills High School should look like.” The complaint also alleges that Hall once said he did not trust Paysinger because of “where he is from” and that board Vice President Brian Goldberg once said it would be easier for Paysinger “if he had lighter skin” and that he “looks more intelligent when he wears glasses.”
Hall, who was the only board member named as a party in the lawsuit, denies he made the comment and said all the allegations against him are false.
“The allegations in the complaint are without merit and the Board of Education will be vigorously defending its position,” Hall said.
Goldberg also denies making the remarks. The lawsuit appears to be timed to the release of Paysinger’s memoirs, he said.
“It’s to increase interest in the book so hopefully he gets a movie deal out of it, make a lot of money and use Beverly Hills High,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg said he no longer sees Paysinger as a capable principal.
“I really don’t think, given these accusations that he’s made, that he has the ability to be an effective leader at the high school,” Goldberg said. “I don’t see how he can work with the board and superintendent when he’s making false accusations about racism.”
Korbatov could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit was first reported by TMZ.