CHICAGO (CBS) —  They’re calling it a “toxic environment.”

Some African American staff and students at a Pilsen high school are coming forward with serious allegations against administrators. They said saying they didn’t do enough to stop racial discrimination.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey looked into the complaints at Benito Juarez Community Academy.

Rose Moore is retired Benito Juarez Community Academy teacher.

“It was so toxic in there, I barely could walk,” Moore said. “Especially for anybody that’s not white.”

Some strong words from retired teacher Rose Moore, describing a culture of racism at her predominantly Hispanic high school. She painfully looked back at the time one of her students called her the n-word in class.

And she said the issue was swept under the rug by the school’s principal, who’s been running the school since 2008.

“Miss Moore she didn’t mean nothing by it. Miss Moore, they just say that. They don’t mean anything by that,” she recounted.

Moore said she repeatedly reported racist or discriminatory behavior to administrators, but she felt like it was mostly tolerated.

“They kept harassing me and they kept picking at me,” Moore said.

The  CBS 2 Investigators have learned that Moore’s experience is not unique. CBS 2 heard from several African American teachers; a current and former members of the staff and even students who said that not enough was done to promote tolerance and inclusion.

Former clerk Elonda Smith-Neris’ complaint, and at least two others, is being investigated by the districts equal opportunity compliance office. She alleged that even though she had the most seniority in her department and had never been written up, she was treated differently.

“I’m the only African American clerk at the school,” said Elonda Smith-Neris, a former clerk at Benito Juarez Community Academy.

CBS 2 has learned that two other Benito Juarez employees went as far as filing discrimination complaints in federal court. Many said they’re speaking up now in the hopes of a culture change.

“For me, it’s for the kids,” Smith Neris said. “That shouldn’t be accepted at any place.”

CBS 2 reached out to the school’s principal and CPS for comment on the complaints, but so far no response.

 

Megan Hickey