Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools Recently Amended

Amherst educator Lamikco Magee filed a federal lawsuit against the district and its former and current leaders alleging retaliation and discrimination. The lawsuit comes after a wave of resignations and a district-wide Title IX investigation.

Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit  Against Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools Recently Amended
Lamikco Magee, a former head of the teacher’s union and current dean of students at Amherst Regional Middle School, filed a federal lawsuit against the district and its leaders. Photo courtesy of MassLive.

Amherst educator Lamikco Magee filed a multi-million federal discrimination and defamation lawsuit against the Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools (ARPS) and their former and current leaders on April 5.

Magee, finalist for middle school principal, amended the lawsuit April 24, claiming additional retaliation and discrimination in response to the district’s announcement of a failed principal search.

Although Magee was the only internal candidate and only person of color considered, she was not selected for the position. ARPS offered the job to a white finalist who declined the role. As a result, ARPS reported Wednesday that they were discontinuing the search, according to a press release from the Atlanta-based civil rights lawyer representing Magee.

“We were not surprised by the latest act of retaliation against Ms. Magee, as the District has repeatedly demonstrated an inclination to violate her civil rights, at every opportunity,” Attorney Arnold Lizana wrote in the press release. “As a first tier finalist, Magee should have been offered the position once the less qualified white candidate declined it."

The federal lawsuit states that the defendants violated her rights under the non-retaliation provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and alleges counts of violation of privacy, defamation, breach of contract, and emotional distress.

The lawsuit comes in the context of a wave of resignations in response to reported mistreatment of LGBTQ students and a Title IX case alleging a lack of intervention by the administration.

This summer, Magee was the second Black woman working for Amherst public schools who filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the first being its former Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Human Resources Doreen Cunningham .

Cunningham is also one of the defendants in the April federal lawsuit, along with former superintendent Michael Morris and current interim superintendent Douglas Slaughter.

Lamikco Magee is currently on medical leave due to damage she said the defendants caused. Photo courtesy of Lamikco Magee. 

Magee is currently the Dean of Students at Amherst Regional Middle School (ARMS) and previously led the teacher’s union. She was forced to take medical leave and is currently under treatment to manage trauma incurred by the defendants, the lawsuit states.

“Defaming educators who courageously advocate for marginalized students is not only immoral, it is illegal. This lawsuit was filed to hold accountable those who attempt to silence our educators with defamation and other retaliatory tactics. We will fight relentlessly until justice prevails,” Magee’s attorney Arnold Lizana wrote in a statement to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The district is not commenting on the matter at this time, according to Director of Communication and Operations Debbie Westmoreland.

The 27-page lawsuit details events from Oct. 2022 to Nov. 2023 when Magee filed complaints against the district, only to be retaliated against by the defendants, it states.

For example, the lawsuit states that, after filing the MCAD complaint, Magee was locked out of her email and her employment was terminated without prior notice or warning. Magee protested and was later reinstated.

It adds that in Magee’s prior candidacy for ARMS principal, public forums discussed her name and disclosed personal, harmful information, violating her privacy.

In terms of defamation, the case references an offensive flier widely circulated that referenced a purported criminal record and “engaging in alleged unethical behaviors at a prior employer,” adding that employees at ARMS practiced witchcraft, which was proven false by an independent investigation.

The lawsuit states that Magee was denied promotion to higher administrative positions in favor of less qualified candidates.

Following the lawsuit’s filing, Lizana said to the Daily Hampshire Gazette that he will be investigating public schools’ business records, deposing public school officials, and conducting further preparations for a trial.

Correction, April 25, 2024: This article was updated to add how Magee amended the lawsuit on April 24 following the failed search for middle school principal.