Former Denfeld Principal Files Federal Lawsuit Against District

Updated: September 09, 2019 11:10 PM

After being placed on leave for nearly two months, Denfeld High School principal Tonya Sconiers is now taking legal actions.


Monday, she filed a federal lawsuit against the Duluth Public Schools. Superintendent Bill Gronseth and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Horton have also been named in the suit. She alleges violation of her first amendment rights, violation of her human rights (race and sex), and violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act.

In a statement with her attorneys on Monday, she said, "I refused to be silenced. Furthermore, I refuse to let another year, another month, or another day go by without holding our education system accountable for fair, just, and equitable actions that benefit all students in Duluth Public Schools."

According to the lawsuit, the district sought to silence one of their most boisterous leaders, after she questioned some of their policies and practices when it came to equity, the achievement gap, opportunity gap, and hiring. It also alleges Superintendent Gronseth called her and two colleagues, "Mean Girls."

The suit also alleges that discipline included thinly-veiled attempts to paint her into the trope of "angry black woman."

Here's a bit more about the timeline. She has worked for the Duluth Public Schools for nearly 19 years. The last seven were as principal at Denfeld.

Sconiers was reprimanded in December. She belives it had to do with her questioning hiring practices.

Then, in March, she was suspended for five days. The suit said in a directive, she was told not to question actions by the administration unless you believe there is a violation of law.

The lawsuit said Sconiers notified the district she had hired lawyers to investigate the suspension. She said the following day, she was notified of another, one-day suspension. And it happened to be on what is widely known as Principals Day, May 1st. 

In July, the school board took a vote, intending to terminate Sconiers.  The suit said the reasons for the dismissal included: 1) failure to email assistant superintendent about a homelessness issue 2) inefficient management of Denfeld 3) alleges she lied about calling in sick 4) accused of lying to superintendent

We are waiting for word back from the district's lawyers.

We'll have more about the suit, tonight at 5 and 6pm.

RELATED: Denfeld Principal Placed on Administrative Leave 


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