Are Lee Co. Schools firing minorities more often?

Posted at 6:58 PM, Sep 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 18:58:46-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Recent firings of some minority employees of the Lee County School District have many questioning if there is a racial pattern.

A few weeks back, former North Fort Myers teacher and baseball coach Tavaris Gary fought to get his job back, during a meeting with the Lee County School district. The president of the NAACP was present to show his support, and told Fox 4 he believes the school district is punishing minority teachers more harshly than white teachers. "We have some concerns regarding minority teachers being let go at a time the school district is saying they need new teachers," said James Muwakkil.

Muwakkil said Gary didn't deserve to be fired, and his firing is decreasing the representation of African Americans in Lee County Schools. "African Americans continue to be the first group let go," Muwakkil said.

After hearing his concerns, Fox 4 requested documents from the school district showing which teachers were fired last year by race. They showed a slight discrepancy. For the 2015-2016 school year, minorities represented roughly 16 percent of the district's 5,600 teachers. However, that group accounted for 27 percent of the 128 teacher fired last year, an 11 percent difference.

While Gary does not entirely blame race for his termination, he does believe it played a factor. "I don't believe that's a coincidence that minorities are being fired at a higher rate than they're being hired. I believe this is just part of the area and the system that we're still fighting for equality," he said.