Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Lawsuit Alleges Principal Was Fired for Support of Hispanic Students

Source: Bigstock

An Alabama principal who was fired from her Catholic school post for allegedly embezzling funds claims in a new federal lawsuit that she was instead retaliated against for defending Hispanic students.

Maria Nolen, the former principal of St. Ann Catholic School in Decatur, Alabama, almost doubled the K-8 school’s enrollment after she was hired at the school in 2012, AL.com reports. She actively recruited families who, through the Alabama Accountability Act, received tax credits and scholarship money for their children to attend private schools. Many of these new students were of Hispanic origin. 

According to the lawsuit, obtained by The Decatur Daily, Nolen claims she clashed with her secretary, Veronique Edington, over the woman’s unwillingness to participate in programs to help Hispanic students. Edington also reportedly made derogatory comments, such as “Can you believe how stupid Mrs. Nolen is to think I am going to give up my Saturday to help these people?” and “If they could speak English and read it, this would help.” 

Nolen said she was warned by the diocese to stop reprimanding her secretary, who is the wife of an advisory board member and financial adviser to the diocese. Edington quit in October 2014.

At an advisory board meeting the following month, Nolen was criticized for enrolling underqualified Hispanic students, though in the lawsuit she states that all applicants had to pass an entrance test and all the Hispanic students had passed. In December, Nolen was fired after a supervisor accused her of embezzlement.

Nolen maintains her innocence and alleges in the lawsuit that the secretary’s husband used his position to retaliate against her, though John Edington denies this claim. She is requesting back pay, punitive and compensatory damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

An attorney for the diocese told AL.com, ”Maria Nolen was not terminated for the reasons she alleges in her complaint or for any other discriminatory reason. We are an inclusive religion and thus would not exclude anyone for reasons related to their race. Hispanics are as welcome in our churches and schools as any other race.”