High School Worker Fired After|Telling Students to Film Police

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – A California school district fired a longtime campus supervisor for encouraging students to film police as they brutalized a black student during a fight on campus, the woman claims in court.
     Shenetta Toney claims she was fired for engaging in protected speech when Lodi Unified School District administrators reprimanded and fired her for telling students to film police brutality.
     She sued the school district and a fellow supervisor in San Joaquin County Court on Tuesday, alleging a history of racial discrimination and harassment.
     She sued the high school principal and personnel director in Federal Court on Monday.
     Both lawsuits mention an April 24, 2014 fight at Bear Creek High School.
     When Stockton police were called for the fight between students and nonstudents, Toney says she saw three Stockton police officers brutalize a black student who weighed no more than 100 lbs.
     “They violently smashed her face into the pavement, wrapped their hands around her neck, and yelled at her to be quiet, while another officer had her pinned to the ground with his knee in her back, trying to handcuff her,” Toney says in the Superior Court complaint.
     In both lawsuits, she says that students were “horrified” by the police.
     In both lawsuits she says she reacted by saying: “Where is the justice in this? This is police brutality. Pull out your cell phones and record this.”
     This is the protected speech for which she was fired, Toney says. She claims the personnel director told her so.
     Her attorney Randy Rumph told Courthouse News: “You don’t get to take adverse reactions against a public employee because they engaged in protected speech.”
     In addition to her constitutional protections, Rumph said, it’s legal to film police officers in California in many situations.
     Although the Stockton Police Department is not a defendant in either lawsuit, Rumph criticized them for calling the school district and falsely accusing Toney of wrongdoing.
     “There were false allegations that she took a student away from the police’s custody,” Rumph said.
     The San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office criminally charged Toney with interfering with a police officer, but dropped the charges, according to the Superior Court complaint.
     Stockton Police arrested three men during the melee and more than 20 officers were called to the scene. Cell phone videos surfaced on YouTube shortly after, showing students recording the fight and being handcuffed by police.
     The Superior Court lawsuit claims the school district took no action when she complained about racial harassment from her fellow supervisor Don Tirapelle.
     Among the statements she attributed to Tirapelle were: “The blacks sure want to get paid, but they don’t wanna work.”
     And she claims that when she complained in a staff meeting that Tirapelle was “overly aggressive” with students in the detention program, he responded: “Ninety percent of these students are minorities and will end up in prison anyway. … It is a proven fact.”
     Bear Creek High School principal Bill Atterberry told CNS he “cannot discuss” Toney’s lawsuits.
     Toney worked for the school district for 15 years as a security guard. She says 900 people attended an event when the Black Student Union recognized her for community leadership. She seeks punitive damages in both lawsuits.
     She is represented by Rumph, of Bakersfield, in Federal Court, and by Raven Sarnoff, of San Francisco, in Superior Court.

%d bloggers like this: