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Teacher sues Lehigh Valley school district for discrimination, says student threatened to ‘lynch’ and ‘burn’ her

Melanie Wilson taught at Easton Area High School for 24 years after playing field hockey in college. (Andreas Pelekis / 첥Ƶ)
Melanie Wilson taught at Easton Area High School for 24 years after playing field hockey in college. (Andreas Pelekis / 첥Ƶ)
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A former Easton Area High School teacher has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the Easton Area School District of racial discrimination, saying it failed to protect her from a student who threatened to “lynch” her.

Melanie Wilson claimed she faced racism and harassment during her 24-year tenure as a teacher. Wilson, who is Black, seeks an award of back pay, front pay, punitive damages, compensatory damages, attorney fees and other relief, according to filed June 7.

The lawsuit alleges multiple occasions in which Wilson’s safety concerns were ignored. It says a student used the N-word against Wilson in 2020. During an online class, the student said he would “lynch her, burn her and her mom” in front of other students. Wilson removed the student from the online classroom.

According to the lawsuit, Wilson was directed to continue teaching the student until he was proven to have made the threats. The student was eventually charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors related to the threats.

When the student was later placed in a classroom next to Wilson at the high school, she requested that the student be moved away from her. The student was not moved, according to the lawsuit.

The student was expelled but was able to return to the high school in August 2022. A safety plan was to be enacted for Wilson, per the lawsuit, but no such plan occurred, leading her to feel unsafe, according to the lawsuit.

Wilson then encountered the student in a teacher planning room. She was “completely shocked, frozen and had a full-blown panic attack,” the lawsuit says. Wilson would no longer attend after-school events due to the incident, and used up all of her sick days. She eventually applied for another job at the end of the 2022-23 school year and now teaches at a school in York County.

“Ms. Wilson’s motivation in the classroom had diminished and she felt that she needed a change in order to get back to the love of teaching and to continue making the impact she had always prided herself on,” the lawsuit says.

Wilson also argues in her lawsuit that she was discriminated against in 2006 when she was passed over as the high school’s field hockey coach.

Wilson’s daughter encountered racially motivated bullying at Easton Area High School, which led her to transfer to a different school, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also claims Wilson’s other daughter was pulled from a field hockey game at halftime due to kneeling during the national anthem.

The lawsuit comes two years after former Easton Area High School wrestling coach JaMarr Billman was granted $250,000 in compensatory damages — he had also sued the school district for alleged racial discrimination.

It is unknown how much money Wilson demands.

Wilson and her attorneys from declined to comment.

John Freund III, attorney and solicitor for the Easton Area School District, said that the district was confident that the evidence would negate any racism during the hiring process for the field hockey coach, but he declined to comment on the rest of Wilson’s lawsuit.

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