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HIV-Positive Teacher Alleges Disability, Race Discrimination

The lawsuit alleges that teachers who are not of African-American descent and have been habitually late have not been subject to adverse job actions.

October 6, 2011
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An elementary school teacher who is HIV-positive filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Chicago Board of Education and his principal that alleges race and disability discrimination.

Jumeck Smith, who has taught at Von Humboldt Elementary School in Chicago for six years, is seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.

The suit, filed in federal court in Chicago, alleges that the school's principal, Alexandra Sophia Guilamo, removed him as an eighth grade teacher for occasionally being late one to four minutes in punching in at the school's time clock, even though he had been granted an accommodation because of his HIV disability.

The lawsuit alleges that teachers who are not of African-American descent and have been habitually late have not been subject to adverse job actions.

The suit also alleges that for two years, Guilamo told students that Smith has "deprived them of competent instruction" and that she routinely sent him "offensive and critical emails."

Smith is now on medical leave, said his attorney, Christopher C. Cooper of the Law Office of Christopher Cooper Inc. in Chicago.

A school board spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Judy Greenwald writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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