Lankan Professor files discrimination lawsuit in US

2 September 2013 06:23 pm - 4     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sudantha VidanageA Bethlehem Area School Board in Pennsylvania Ave, United States member and college professor has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Phillipsburg School District, claiming he was passed over for full-time teaching positions based on his race and age.

Sudantha Vidanage alleges he was twice denied a chance to interview for open math and business positions, despite holding relevant degrees and amassing decades of work experience, as administrators opted for younger, white candidates with less experience.

"The district's refusal to even interview Mr. Vidanage for the open positions, despite his unparalleled qualifications, was clearly intended to assure that the extremely low minority representation among the school district's staff remained that way," states the three-count lawsuit, filed earlier this month in New Jersey Superior Court in Belvidere.

The complaint names the Phillipsburg School District and unidentified people who "established and/or enforced the discriminatory hiring practices" as defendants.

Phillipsburg schools Superintendent George Chando could not be reached for comment. There was no attorney on record for the district, according to court documents.

A native of Sri Lanka, Vidanage, who is an adjunct professor of algebra and statistics at Lehigh Carbon Community College and Northampton Community College, first applied for a full-time position at the district in spring 2010, the lawsuit states.

Despite more than three decades of business and educational work experience and masters degrees from Lehigh and Columbia universities, the district showed no interest in his candidacy and did not offer an interview, according to his attorney, Howard Vex.

Shortly after being passed over, Vidanage began working as a substitute teacher at Phillipsburg High School and repeatedly expressed interest in gaining full-time employment, the lawsuit states. In 2011, five positions opened up within the district, including high school business and math positions as well as a spot as a middle school math teacher.

But again, Vidanage says he applied and was not given a chance to interview.

Concerned, he began to investigate and found most, if not all, the open positions were given to white applicants born in the United States, each of whom was a recent college graduate or lacked significant experience, the lawsuit asserts. Vex said his client later found that while 32 percent of the district's students were minorities, just 3 percent of the teaching staff were minorities.

"Something seems very amiss here," he said. "It just doesn't seem right. The percentages are unbelievably glaring."

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began investigating Vidanage's claims of discrimination in 2011 but its findings were inconclusive, according to a letter, dated May 7, 2013, included in the suit.
Still, Vidanage says in court documents it is clear the district used a combination of either his age or race as a determining factor in passing over his application and refusing to even grant an interview. To date, Vex said his client has not been given a satisfactory explanation as to why he was passed over for the positions.

"This pattern of blatant and intentional discrimination served no legitimate purpose, and it is the students of the Phillipsburg School District that have been intentionally made worse off by those very persons entrusted with improving their education," the lawsuit reads.

According to his lawyer, the Bethlehem Area School District board member wanted to teach at Phillipsburg because he saw it as a chance to give back to society, having immigrated to a country with next to nothing and achieving a high degree of success, Vex said.

"He was doing it because he wanted to give back," he said. "He had lived the American Dream. He thought he could be an inspiration to the kids and he really enjoys teaching."

Vidanage is seeking to be paid lost wages and damages as well as attorney fees and other relief the court sees fit. He has requested a jury trial.

Vex said his client doesn't want to hurt the district and is simply seeking a fair chance for future applicants who may be a minority or older in age.

"The goal is just to make sure the school board or administration will have an open mind and hire a more diverse staff to reflect the student body," he said.(The Express-Times)
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  Comments - 4

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  • Perumal Tuesday, 03 September 2013 09:25 AM

    Dr. Vidanage need not fear about white vans or incidents purported to be accidents or burglaries.

    Kamal-USA Tuesday, 03 September 2013 02:03 AM

    Sri Lanka is the only country in the world which does not have any discrimination.

    OMG Tuesday, 03 September 2013 02:21 AM

    Way to go Sudantha. Beat them in their own game.

    Wickrama Tuesday, 03 September 2013 05:25 AM

    Which Sri Lanka are yoy talking about ?


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