The former preschool director at The Westminster Schools in Buckhead is suing the school and two administrators, alleging she faced racist attacks by her supervisor and was fired because she is Asian American.
The lawsuit was filed last month by Dr. Caroline Diaz, Ed.D., in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. She is represented by Buckley Beal, an Atlanta-based civil rights and employment litigation firm.
The Westminster Schools is an elite private school located on roughly 180 acres on West Paces Ferry Road. The school has nearly 2,000 students.
Diaz alleges in the lawsuit that Westminster breached her contract and retaliated against her after she published opinion pieces in Education Week magazine describing the lack of Asian educators in leadership positions, the race discrimination faced by educators of Asian descent in the education industry, and the need for Asian educators to stand up to discrimination and racial stereotypes about Asians in the workplace.
Westminster declined to comment on the allegations.
“Westminster takes all personnel and litigation matters seriously and remains committed to providing an equitable workplace for all of our employees. We cannot comment on this specific matter at this time,” said school spokesperson Liz Ball in an email.
The school has until mid-September to file a response, according to Buckley Beal.
Diaz, who is of Filipino, Chinese and Japanese descent, began working at Westminster in February of 2015 and served as the preschool director for more than six years, according to the lawsuit. She alleges in her suit she was the only Asian person in a leadership position at Westminster while she worked there. She was fired May 4, 2021.
Diaz alleges in the lawsuit that her supervisor made comments about Asians “causing Coronavirus.” Diaz also alleges that in response to an April 16, 2020 op-ed she wrote for Education Week about teaching preschoolers virtually during the pandemic, her supervisor asked her how she learned to speak and write English, according to the lawsuit.
Diaz claims in the lawsuit that complaints about racist attacks were ignored by Westminster’s Human Resources department.
Diaz also alleges in the suit that when she sought pay raises for preschool teachers, her supervisor demanded to see proof of the college transcripts of four Filipina teachers but did not request the credentials of the white American teachers. Diaz alleges that her supervisor explained her reasoning by saying, “considering the way they speak English,” it was “hard to believe” that they held bachelor’s degrees, the lawsuit says.
On March 22, 2021, Diaz published a second op-ed in Education Week about Asian hate. In the article, Diaz gave examples of anti-Asian discrimination she encountered or saw, including the Trump administration labeling COVID-19 as the “Kung Flu.”
Diaz also wrote in the op-ed, “My race has meant inequity and bias. The racism can be as petty as fielding a question about how I learned to speak in English or an exclamation of how lucky I am to be from the land of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Or it can be more significant—like being passed over for an administrator job because I was not the right skin color.”
On May 4, 2021, Diaz was fired her based on reports that Diaz allegedly told some employees to “stick it to Westminster,” according to the lawsuit. Diaz denied making the comment.
Diaz also alleges in the lawsuit that Westminster did not follow through on its promise to pay her an annual stipend for pursuing a doctorate, a bonus for working through COVID-19, and her prorated salary up to her termination date.
After she was fired, Diaz alleges in the lawsuit that a Westminster administrator called her and threatened her 11-year-old son’s enrollment at Westminster. The administrator also threatened legal action if she spoke negatively about the school to families or members of the community, according to the lawsuit.
The suit also alleges that Westminster’s attorney sent Diaz a letter threatening her with “immediate legal action” if she made any “statements that are adverse or prejudicial to Westminster.”
Buckley Beal attorney Anita Bala, representing Diaz, said in a written statement: “Westminster claims to have ‘an ongoing commitment to hire and retain a passionate, talented, diverse faculty,’ but Dr. Diaz’s suit alleges that Westminster did not hesitate to jettison that commitment when one of their Asian American faculty members used her voice to speak out against racism she personally experienced at the school.”
Andrew Tate, another attorney representing Diaz, said, “If Dr. Diaz’s allegations are proven, Westminster owes Caroline Diaz and the Atlanta community an apology. The alleged threats against Dr. Diaz and her family are appalling and must be condemned.”