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Former Martinsville High principal sues for $9.5 million, citing discrimination

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The former principal of Martinsville High has filed discrimination charges against the city, Martinsville City School Board and Martinsville City Council to the tune of $9.5 million.   

Angela Weinerth acted as principal from 2013 to 2016. In the lawsuit, she alleges that she was discriminated against as a white, 63-year-old woman.  

The lawsuit states that the city instituted a policy to hire administrators and educators on the basis of race, gender and age for the purpose of reflecting the composition of the student body. 

When she became an assistant principal, Weinerth tried to alert then-Principal Aji Dixon to data indicating that students were falling behind, according to the lawsuit. She alleges that the principal told her to "back off," and in another occasion lunged over his desk at her. 

Dixon was removed and Weinerth took over as principal. 

The lawsuit states that the school board expressed concerns that more than 70 percent of the school system's staff was white. More than 70 percent of MHS students are minorities and more than 50 percent are male. 

Weinerth alleges that Superintendent Zebedee Talley Jr. directed her to count the number of MHS teachers by race and report back to him. Soon afterward, she was demoted to assistant principal at Martinsville Middle School. She was then threatened to be further demoted to a teaching position, according to the lawsuit. 

Dixon was then promoted back to MHS principal. 

Weinerth is suing for reinstatement of her position as MHS principal, $105,000 in back pay and benefits, and $445,000 in prospective pay and benefits. She is also suing for at least $1 million in non-economic damages and $8 million in punitive damages. 

Here is the joint statement from Martinsville City Public Schools and the City of Martinsville: 

Martinsville sincerely regrets that Ms. Weinerth felt it necessary to file a lawsuit against her employer, the public school system. It is particularly regrettable, at this time of national discord over questions of race and discrimination, that she has wrongly chosen to place blame for her reassignment within the school system on race and bias. It also unfortunate that our community’s resources must be diverted to defending this baseless lawsuit rather than on the continued improvement of our schools.

All citizens in our area should be proud of the fact that in the past year under new leadership Martinsville High School has regained full re-accreditation from the state and has proved a safe and stable learning environment for our students.

We are content to let a comparison of the record of Mavahi’s performance during Ms. Weinerth’s tenure, and its performance since, speak for itself. We believe Ms. Weinerth’s case has no merit whatsoever and we look forward to seeing justice being done. 

We are confident that the outcome of this case will provide assurance to our entire community that Martinsville City Schools does not judge people by the color of their skin.