Chicago Public Schools officials are settling a lawsuit with teachers who claimed they were fired by the district after becoming pregnant by paying out a settlement of $280,000.
The settlement will be split by 8 teachers who were fired from Scammon Elementary School between 2009 and 2012. The money includes back pay and $222,500 in compensatory damages, according to terms of the agreement filed in federal court this week.
According to the settlement, CPS does not need to admit any wrongdoing to the US Department of Education. The district will be required to rewrite its discrimination policies and complaint reporting systems. Those changes will need to be submitted to the department for review.
Scammon Principal Mary Weaver continues to deny any bias against pregnant teachers and spoke out against the settlement on Wednesday, adding that she had filed a discrimination complaint herself after going on maternity leave over 10 years ago.
"I'm tired of being the scapegoat. This is a predominantly female-based organization. It's just a natural assumption that you have a woman [of] whatever age, they're going to have children. That's just the way it works and we embrace it."
Filed by the Department of Education on behalf of the teachers, the lawsuit suggested that Weaver had picked out pregnant teachers and given them poor reviews. In some cases, they were fired. All allegations were denied by the school system's attorneys, writes Aamer Madhani for USA Today.
Teachers Jane Bushue and Jennifer Mollis filed a complaint with federal authorities after Bushue was fired and Mollis left the school, saying she believed she would have been fired. Weaver had previously given both teachers excellent ratings. However, those ratings dropped directly after they each announced their pregnancies, writes Andy Grimm for The Chicago Sun-Times.
According to the federal complaint, five teachers at the school saw their evaluations from Weaver fall significantly after making their pregnancies public in 2009 and 2010. The complaint went on to say that the teachers had been fired, despite other teachers who had received worse reviews remaining on staff.
Weaver replied to the complaint by stating that 25 teachers had been laid off that year as part of citywide staff cuts, with women making up the majority of the elementary school staff. She said that she had notified CPS officials that the five women were on or were set to go on maternity leave, and that as a mother she would never do something like that to someone else. "Being a mother is probably the single greatest achievement that I have," she said.
As a result of increased pressure from Weaver, Mollis ended up taking a position at another school, with Bushue being fired after a series of poor evaluations that began after she became pregnant.
In a brief statement Thursday, CPS said that "Chicago Public Schools is fully committed to promoting inclusive work environments free of discrimination or mistreatment. We are taking steps to bolster training and policy awareness to ensure every school and office in CPS is a welcoming environment."