The Rev. Kyev Tatum has been ordered to pay the Fort Worth school district more than $300,000 in a default judgment involving a student work program that Tatum launched without administrative approval.
Tatum was ordered to pay $286,737 in actual and other damages, according to a final judgment order signed Jan. 16 by Judge Mike Hrabal of Tarrant County Court at Law No. 3.
Hrabal also ordered Tatum to pay $50,000 or more in attorney fees, prejudgment interest, court costs and fees in anticipation of an appeal.
The district sued Tatum after he arranged for about 100 students to clean district campuses during summer, telling them they would be paid. But administrators had told him they would not authorize the project. The school board later voted to pay the students $60,000 for their work but also authorized the suit.
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Tatum did not respond to the suit, so the district won by default, court documents show.
On Friday, Tatum, who is on a list of contractors approved to do business with the district, said he didn’t respond because “I will not engage in the [district’s] petty politics and the attempt to assassinate me politically.”
“I have no money. They had me work for them for free. I basically worked like a slave for free this summer,” he said. “I’m a poor black man who has dedicated my life to do the work of the Lord.”
Tatum said his mentoring program, the Good Hands Crew, was designed to help young people develop good work habits. The students cleaned 17 district campuses, including 250 rooms, cafeterias and auditoriums, he said.
In a statement Friday, district spokesman Clint Bond reiterated that the work program was never authorized.
Tatum was told not to implement it after a May 26 meeting with several district officials, including then-Superintendent Walter Dansby, but did so anyway, Bond said.
In August, responding to an outcry from students and their parents, trustees voted to pay the youths about $60,000 and apologized for “adult problems.”
Trustees declined to pay Tatum the $10,000 administrative fee he asked for and directed administrators “to consider any and all legal remedies that may be pursued against responsible parties to obtain reimbursement of the monies paid” to the students.
That resulted in the lawsuit.
On Aug. 11, Tatum filed a federal complaint against the district with the civil-rights division of the Justice Department.
“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 inner-city youth within the school district since December 2011. I have been under continued harassment and discrimination from Day One.”
The status of the complaint could not be learned late Friday.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705