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African American teacher sues Philly prep school over firing

A math teacher at an exclusive Philadelphia prep school claims in a racial-discrimination suit that he was fired without cause after school officials alleged he sent inappropriate text messages to a female student. 

Attorneys for Arthur “Chuck” Matthews said the veteran teacher, who is black, was fired even though the young woman and her parents said the messages contained nothing improper. 

The federal lawsuit alleges that Matthews’ termination from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was part of a pattern of discrimination at the “predominantly Caucasian” school, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported

“Historically, black employees, regardless of their position, have been denied promotions and are subject to harsher discipline, unfair demotion, and unjust termination in circumstances where nonblack staff are, or have been, treated more favorably,” the lawsuit said. 

A spokeswoman said the private school does not comment on pending litigation. 

The suit said Matthews, who has been employed by the school since 1998, had a clean record until August, when school President Priscilla Sands issued a written warning and suspended him from coaching and advising duties because he had exchanged texts with a young woman who graduated in June. 

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Sands sent a letter to parents that said the school had concluded the texts were of a personal, but not sexual, nature, and that Matthews had used poor judgment, according to the suit. 

Later, though, as gossip about Matthews spread, Sands called the teachers to a meeting Sept. 11 and demanded that he confess to improper conduct and resign, the suit said. Matthews refused, saying he had done nothing wrong, and was fired. 

Sands and the school relied on rumors to unjustly terminate him and defamed him by spreading “erroneous findings of his alleged wrongdoing” to the school community, the suit said. 

Tuition at the school ranges from about $17,000 for prekindergarten to about $29,000 for the high school.  

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