Posted on Apr 29, 2006
Jury awards Troy teacher $2.4 million
High school math instructor said her firing was racial
April 29, 2006
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
A federal jury awarded more than $2 million in damages Friday to a former math teacher at Troy Athens High School, agreeing with the claim that she was fired because of her race.
Agnes Auvenshine, who is Chinese, is now a part-time math instructor at Oakland University and Macomb Community College. She was fired from Troy in June 2002 and sued later that year.
Athens Principal Catherine Cost was ordered to pay $1.2 million and the Troy School District also must pay $1.2 million, the jury ruled.
"I'm very pleased. I think the jury did an incredible job. I'm happy that justice is served," said Auvenshine, 40, of Oxford. "Discrimination should not be allowed or tolerated."
School district officials said Friday they will consider an appeal. The ruling is contrary to an arbitrator's findings and a 2002 investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "both of which were unable to find evidence of any prejudice or discrimination by the school district or its administrators," said district spokesman Tim McAvoy.
The arbitrator found in 2004 that Auvenshine was fired for performance deficiencies "in such areas as lesson preparation and delivery, management of student behavior in her classes, and her overall approach with students," McAvoysaid in a statement.
But Joe Golden, Auvenshine's attorney, said his client was told on four occasions that her race and national origin "were impacting her qualifications and ability to teach."
Cost denied the conversations took place, Golden said.
"The jury was faced with an issue of credibility. Do they believe ... that these statements were made that show a racial animosity toward her, or do they believe the principal? The jury obviously concluded that Agnes Auvenshine was more credible than her principal," Golden said.
Cost could not be reached Friday for comment.
Auvenshine was born in China and immigrated to the United States in 1984. She became a U.S. citizen in 1990, Golden said. She became a probationary teacher in 1999 in the Troy district.
In her first year on the job, the previous principal found her performance "overall to be acceptable."
But in 2000, Cost became principal. Golden said Cost "evaluated her extensively and found her performance to be progressively deteriorating."