HOUSTON, Texas - An HISD principal accused of inappropriate conduct tied to the district's decision to relax student dress code has filed a federal complaint against the district.
Dr. Bertie Simmons' attorney, Scott Newar, filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Education Agency on behalf of the 83-year-old school administrator.
Simmons was relieved of her duties at Furr High School and reassigned in late September after she allegedly threatened students with a baseball bat.
In the complaint, Simmons and her attorney allege she was subjected to racial and age discrimination and retaliation.
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Newar denied Simmons ever threatened physical harm to a student, but wrote in the complaint that "Dr. Simmons has routinely, playfully (emphasis his) referred misbehaving Furr students to the baseball bat that she keeps in her office."
Houston school officials said part of their decision to relieve Simmons included her failure to adhere to the district's decision to give students a one semester pass on the student dress code.
But, again, Newar said the district's accusation was baseless.
"...HISD did not 'relax' its student dress code in the first semester of the 2017-2018 school year," the complaint reads. "Rather, as the attached documents attest, HISD allowed each individual HISD school principal to decide whether to 'relax' its school dress code or not."
Newar said while Simmons has been unfairly retaliated for her decision to enforce the dress code, Furr High School wasn't the only campus to keep the policy.
The principals of Lamar High School and Hogg Middle School also chose to enforce the policy, but neither of their principals were investigated or disciplined, Newar said.
"In short, HISD's "uniform policy" and "baseball bat" allegations against Dr. Simmons are merely pretexts for discriminating against her based on her race and age," the complaint states.
Simmons has served as principal at Furr High School since 2000. She's credited with dramatically turning the school around academically. The school was awarded a $10 million grant from XQ Project partly due to her initiative to reduce violence and enforce a strict uniform policy.
This afternoon, HISD released the following statement: HISD has an obligation to investigate when there have been allegations of misconduct. Dr. Bertie Simmons has been temporarily reassigned while HISD investigates the allegations. HISD will respond to the EEOC and the Department of Justice complaints filed on behalf of Dr. Simmons, and denies any allegations of a pattern and practice of discriminatory treatment against employees.
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