NEW ROCHELLE - A middle school custodian filed a discrimination complaint against the school district after his supervisor hung nooses in management offices, including one wrapped around the neck of a stuffed monkey.
Robert Johnson, a night custodial aide at Isaac E. Young Middle School, said plant supervisor Phil Carino had hung three nooses in shared office space, according to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Johnson said he removed the first, but that Carino defiantly put up two more, the complaint continued.
Johnson, who is black, said that despite his complaints about the incidents, which occurred between September 2006 and July 2007, school officials failed to seriously reprimand Carino, who is white. Johnson said the district also postponed districtwide racial-sensitivity training, planned for last month.
"This man can hang up nooses with monkeys, I take it down and he can hang up more and nothing gets done," Johnson said. "He should be demoted or fired."
School board President Cindy Babcock Deutsch said yesterday that the board had filed a "comprehensive" response to the EEOC complaint, but that she could not comment on pending administrative legal actions or personnel matters.
However, in a statement, she acknowledged that the incidents occurred and said "there were serious consequences for the responsible party ... including remedial education and a penalty."
Deutsch said sensitivity training for all employees would be held in April and noted that a letter outlining the district's policy of racial, ethnic, gender and religious tolerance had been sent to employees in October.
Carino, who Johnson said was suspended for three weeks without pay as a result of the incidents, did not return calls seeking comment.
The EEOC does not comment on charges when they are in the administrative process, said Nancy Boyd, deputy director of the EEOC's New York district office.
Richard Adamson, pastor of Gospel Tabernacle Church of Christ, said he and other community leaders had met with school officials last year to discuss what he labeled as "racist" incidents. He said the district only recently began taking the group's concerns about sensitivity training seriously after the group threatened to go to the media.
Adamson is encouraging residents to attend tonight's school board meeting at George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School to share their views with trustees.
"That offends every black person," Adamson said. "The president just made a statement on nooses. The whole country's taking this seriously. But when we bring this to them, they do nothing about it."
"The school board and the superintendent act like it doesn't exist," said Ronald Williams, a past president of the New Rochelle chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who also met with district officials. "If this was a swastika, it would have been a totally different reaction."
According to the EEOC complaint and copies of internal district documents provided to The Journal News by Williams, Johnson was transferred to Isaac E. Young in September 2006. On his first night there, Johnson said, he noticed a stuffed monkey hanging from a noose attached to a picture board in an office used by Carino and two black supervisors.
Johnson said he removed the noose and confronted one of the black supervisors, Kenny Bonds, who he said brushed off his concerns. A few months later, Johnson said he saw another empty noose hung from the picture board and removed it. In July 2007, a third noose was hung, which Johnson removed before complaining to Fred Smith, the district's deputy superintendent.
According to district documents, the stuffed monkey with the noose had been put there several years earlier by three employees, including one black worker, as a joke with no racist intentions. In the documents, Carino acknowledged that he never took it down and that, after Johnson removed it, he put up the other small nooses. But Carino insisted his actions were not an acts of racism, according to school documents.
Carino was reprimanded, first with a letter in his file, according to district documents, and later, Johnson said, with a three-week, unpaid suspension. Following the first meeting on the matter on July 24 of last year with Johnson, Carino and other district officials, Principal Anthony Bongo sent a letter dated July 26 to Carino praising his "productive and trustworthy" service, but criticizing him for hanging the nooses.
"This was clearly poor judgment and I must officially extend my displeasure and reprimand for this episode," Bongo wrote, adding: "I appreciate your apology to Mr. Johnson, which I believe was heartfelt and sincere. You have owned up to this as a gentleman, as I knew you would."
Superintendent Richard Organisciak wrote Carino on Oct. 19, telling him that hanging the nooses was unacceptable, but noting there wasn't any evidence that he had engaged in "other conduct which created a hostile or unwelcoming workplace."
"In considering an outcome, I am giving a great deal of weight to the fact that the monkey and the nooses appear to have been isolated acts, rather than a pattern of conduct on your part," Organisciak wrote.
Williams said he had received the letters from district sources, but the district could not verify their authenticity yesterday.
Johnson said he is considering filing a discrimination lawsuit.
"I felt they were just trying to ignore the situation and sweep it up under the rug," he said. "As far as they're concerned it's done and over with. It's not."
Staff writer Jonathan Bandler contributed to this report.Reach Dwight R. Worley at
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