State News

Award-winning drama teacher claims discrimination in suit against Durham schools

Posted August 10

— A drama teacher has sued Durham Public Schools over alleged racial discrimination in staffing and unfair compensation.

Hillside High School drama teacher Wendell Tabb filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday, claiming DPS refuses to staff the predominantly black Hillside High's award-winning drama program as it does with other schools' programs, forcing Tabb to perform the work of two to three teachers.

Tabb, who has been with the district for 30 years, also contends he's worked long hours overseeing the theater for special events and hasn't been compensated, despite asking for district assistance since 2004.

He alleges the district's actions result from a long-standing grudge against him among administrators. More than a decade ago, he and his wife alleged a special needs therapist taped their son's mouth shut, and the district settled that lawsuit for $75,000.

Court documents show Tabb is asking for more than $10,000 in compensatory damages in the latest lawsuit, plus lost wages and additional compensation relating to retirement.

DPS spokesman Chip Sudderth said he couldn't comment on the litigation, but he said the district has increased extra duty pay.

"While we cannot comment on the specifics of this case, Durham Public Schools has increased extra duty pay for teachers in a way that we believe is fair within the resources available to us," Sudderth said in a statement. "We continue to advocate for increased compensation to teachers who take on additional responsibilities in support of our students and schools."

Tabb is a former Teacher of the Year for DPS. Also among the dozens of awards he has won is an honorable mention for a Tony Award this year.


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  • Linda Tally Aug 11, 12:50 a.m.
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    I remember the allegations of mouth taping; it's a shame the district got off with only paying $75,000 - it might have saved some other families grief if it had cost more. Does it hold a grudge about it? Probably.

    The system has always left Hillside's programs more underfunded than other high schools, although ALL of them need more funding. And Mr. Frei is correct - the matter needs to be taken up very forcefully with the Republican General Assembly.

  • Ororo Munroe Aug 10, 2:26 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Whew! I'm glad you were here to clear that up Jim!

  • Jim Frei Aug 10, 1:57 p.m.
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    Mr. Tabb is not being understaffed and underpaid because he's black; all teachers and school programs are underfunded, understaffed, and underpaid. Talk to the republican GA Mr. Tabb.