Long-Time Bronx Educator Fired for Sharing Holocaust Story, Refuses “Wakanda” Salute

Wakanda Salute (Courtesy: Marvel Cinematic Universe)

By Hellen Zaboulani

A Bronx educator claims her career was derailed by the school system’s “equity” agenda.

As reported by the NY Post, on Friday, Karen Ames filed a lawsuit in the Manhattan Supreme Court, saying she was targeted and demoted for being Jewish and above 40 years of age.  A 30-year veteran employee at the Department of Education, she claims that her ousting was part of Chancellor Richard Carranza’s “Disrupt and Dismantle” campaign to get rid of long time employees.  “The agenda of Chancellor Carranza and his senior leadership team was euphemistically touted as an ‘equity platform’ but in reality, it was a platform used to create gender, age, racial and ethnic divisions in the NYC School system,” she said in the $150 million suit.

Ames was once praised by Carranza in his early tenure, for her successes when he had visited PS 69 in District 8, where she served as superintendent since 2014. He had been impressed by her accomplishment in raising math scores, promising to imitate her methods in other schools, she claims in court papers.

Things took a downward spiral, for Ames, however.  At a supposed bias training session where superintendents were asked to share their personal stories, Ames spoke about her grandparents’ devastating loss of two children during the Holocaust in Poland.  Ames alleges that her colleague Rasheda Amon admonished her saying, “you better check yourself”.  “That is not about being Jewish! It’s about black and brown boys of color only,” Amon said, as per court documents.  The legal complaint also says that she was criticized for not participating in the comic book movie-inspired “Wakanda Forever” salute to “black power” at superintendent meetings.

Ames says she was grilled about her “ethnic background,” by Cheryl Watson-Harris, who was then Carranza’s top deputy.   Ames says she was questioned about her family, residency and she “improperly inquired” about her ethnicity.

As per the suit, in August 2018, Watson-Harris gave Ames a termination letter, saying the department “was moving in a new direction”.  Being a single mom, Ames says she begged to keep her job, retirement benefits and health insurance.  A month later, Ames was given a choice, to take a demotion or be removed from the payroll within in 24 hours.  She agreed to be demoted.  After being shuffled around and having no work for five months at one point, in July, Ames finally found a job in a different state as a school administrator, she alleges in the suit.

The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.