Former Faith Christian Academy teacher sues school for wrongful termination

Teacher claims he was fired for organizing meeting to combat racism in school

Posted 6/26/19

A former teacher at Arvada’s Faith Christian Academy filed a lawsuit against the school on June 7, alleging the school wrongfully terminated him when he organized a symposium to address what he …

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Former Faith Christian Academy teacher sues school for wrongful termination

Teacher claims he was fired for organizing meeting to combat racism in school

Posted

Editor's note: This version of the story includes a statement by Faith Christian Academy. This statement was given out by the school after this story ran in print.

A former teacher at Arvada’s Faith Christian Academy filed a lawsuit against the school on June 7, alleging the school wrongfully terminated him when he organized a symposium to address what he identified as issues of racism in the school.

Gregg Tucker was a teacher and chapel director at the school from 2000 until February 2018. The K-12 academy, which is at 12189 W. 64th Ave., has a student body of roughly 1,000 students.

Tucker filed the suit against Faith Christian Academy and three of its employees — Chief Operating Officer Douglas Newcomb, Superintendent Andrew Hasz and Principal Michael Cook.

"The school is grieved by the false allegatoins and completely denies them," said a statement signed by Faith Christian Academy.

"Over a year ago, Gregory Tucker filed a racial discrimination complaint against Faith Christian Academy with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Colorado Civil Rights Division," the statement said. "Those agencies both investigated Mr. Tucker's allegations and elected not to pursue them. He has now chosen to file a lawsuit in federal court based on the same allegations." 

In an email to the school community, written weeks after Tucker was fired to address rumors that individuals planned to protest a schoolboard meeting, Hasz said “the perception that a recent personnel change was linked to bringing up the topic of racism is simply untrue.”

Faith Christian Academy terminated Tucker’s employment on Feb. 26, 2018, according to the lawsuit. In a blog post he wrote at tuckers4.blogpost.com, Tucker said the decision was a response to the chapel meeting he organized on Jan. 12. The meetings are held during the school day and open to students, teachers and parents.

That meeting addressed what Tucker called “a number of disturbing incidents of racism” in an open letter he wrote on Feb. 6, before his termination. Tucker felt compelled to cover the topic of racism after witnessing certain behavior by some students, including students using racial slurs against African-American and Hispanic students, wearing KKK hoods and circulating offensive and racist memes online, according to the lawsuit.

Tucker said students also taunted him with racial slurs after he adopted his daughter, who is Haitian and of African descent.

After obtaining Cook’s approval, Tucker invited speakers to address racial issues during one of the school’s regular chapel meetings, the lawsuit said. Tucker said he later received texts from Hasz and Cook praising the meeting for tackling a difficult topic.

Soon after, however, the school received parent complaints that their children had felt targeted by the meeting. According to the lawsuit, some parents “asked the school to fire (Tucker)” for his role in the chapel meeting.

Former student Ramya Sinha said her mother attended one such meeting, and afterward, the student “begged Mr. Cook repeatedly not to fire Mr. Tucker.”

“The parents expressed they would stop at nothing until he was fired,” she said, but, “Tucker was the only faculty member at that school who really had my back and the backs of many other struggling students.”

Tucker’s employment ended that February, with Hasz sending a letter to families that stated Tucker had voluntarily resigned and the decision was unrelated to the chapel meeting, the lawsuit said.

However, Tucker said he did not voluntarily resign and was told he was being terminated because of the meeting he had organized, the lawsuit states.

Tucker referred Colorado Community Media to his attorneys for comment.

In response to Tucker’s termination, some community members have created a Facebook page called “Truthatfca” that has opposed the school’s decision to fire Tucker, posting statements from student and alumni about racism they experienced at the school.

Sinha likewise experienced racism, she said, starting the year she enrolled.

“I am a student of color and as a second grader, I had to face racism at the school,” she said. “I actually did leave the school at one point, but I decided to come back because I wanted to be there for the academics.”

Sinha and others like her, including 2015 graduate Neal Spadafora, have held that Tucker’s termination is a result of the school’s refusal to address racism in the school.

“I heard of Mr. Tucker’s firing shortly after it occurred. I was incredibly frustrated and angered,” Spadafora said. “Faith has had continued opportunities to denounce and turn from racist manifestations, yet chosen not to do so. “

Tucker now seeks compensation from the school, the amount of which “we’re still counting,” said Peter Friesen, one of Tucker’s attorneys.

“It hurts to be fired that way,” he said, “and they said he resigned, which is false.”

Should Tucker win the suit, the amount he’d receive would be based upon the wages he has lost from the termination and from the damage to his reputation, said Elisabeth Owen, another of Tucker’s attorneys. “The jury will decide an amount from the evidence.”

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