Fort Worth school trustees vote to take ‘legal action’ against Tatum

08/26/2014 10:20 PM

08/26/2014 10:22 PM

School trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to take legal action against the Baptist minister who organized a janitorial project in which students expected to earn money by mopping and cleaning district schools over the summer.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum was not authorized to recruit 100 youngsters to perform custodial duties at district schools, school board members said.

The board took up the item at 9:45 p.m. Trustee Ashley Paz made the motion, and board member Tobi Jackson seconded it.

The board did not discuss the matter and did not clarify what kind of legal action they intended.

Parents said the students had been promised $8.25 an hour, and earlier this month, trustees voted to pay the students a total of about $60,000. Officials declined to pay Tatum a $10,000 administrative fee he ask for.

Also Tuesday night, the board adopted a tax rate of $1.322 per $100 of assessed property value for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The rate is the same as this year.

In late July, dozens of African-American parents angrily stormed school district offices, saying their children were not paid for work as promised. Admistrators said Tatum was told not to implement the program after a May 26 meeting with several district officials, including former Superintendent Walter Dansby.

On May 27, the district sent Tatum an email explaining that the district could not support the program, district officials said.

Tatum’s program seemed worthy, but the district had concerns about underaged worker safety and liability concerns, district officials have said. In addition, it was determined in May that the maintenance department could not fund the program.

On Aug. 11, Tatum filed a complaint against the school district with the U.S. Department of Justice, civil rights division.

“I would like to file an official discrimination complaint against the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) for violating my legal Civil Rights under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in public schools and institutions of higher learning,” Tatum wrote. “I am being discriminated based on my race, color, sex, and religion.

“I have been under contract with the FWISD to mentor at-risk innercity youth within the school district since December 2011. I have been under continued harassment and discrimination from Day One.’’

Tatum could not be reached to comment Tuesday night.

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

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