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Penn State Abington Sued for Discrimination Against White Professor

Zack De Piero started his dream job as an English and writing professor at Penn State Abington in 2018. But now he says it’s become a nightmare of racial harassment, discrimination and violations of his First Amendment rights.

According to a lawsuit he recently filed in federal court, De Piero claims he was required to watch racially-biased videos, including “White Teachers Are a Problem.” He was also told he had to hold his breath until it hurt so he could feel what it’s like to suffer, and he was told the goal of the training was to “assure that all students see that White supremacy manifests itself in language and writing pedagogy,” the suit said.

De Piero complained to his supervisors to no avail, filed reports about the harassment with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and finally resigned in August 2021.

De Piero, 40, is the son of first-generation Italian immigrants. He taught in inner-city schools in Philadelphia, earned a master’s degree from Temple, then a Ph.D. in education from the University of California Santa Barbara before starting as an assistant professor of English and writing at Penn State Abington.

Zack De Piero

De Piero told DVJournal he has a state-mandated obligation to report workplace harassment, including that he was harassed.

“Apparently, it doesn’t work that way,” De Piero said. “Apparently, they like to be selective about who is and is not allowed to be discriminated against.”

De Piero noted that Penn State receives taxpayer funding.

“They should be owning this,” he said. “They should be apologizing to students, apologizing to faculty, to Penn State alumni. I don’t know why they aren’t doing that. It makes no sense to me.”

When De Piero was first hired, his supervisor expressed surprise that he was not registered to vote as a Democrat but as an independent.

“They peddled and enforced race-based ideology in addition to imposing other forms of political orthodoxy and race-based dogma,” the suit said.

He was told to grade students equally no matter how they performed.

“Outcomes alone, regardless of the legitimacy of methods of evaluation, mastery of subject matter or intentions, demonstrate whether a faculty member is racist or not,” the suit said. “They called this ‘social justice and ‘antiracism.’”

“They demonstrate a bigotry of low expectations and ‘do not expect Black or Hispanic students to achieve the same mastery of academic subject matter as other students and therefore insist that deficient performance must be excused.” And “accurate assessment of abilities if it happens to show disparate performance among different racial groups is therefore condemned as ‘racist,’” according to the lawsuit.

Also, “overt discrimination against students and faculty who do apply consistent standards, especially white faculty,” was imposed.

De Piero said his supervisor “emailed him and two other White faculty members to say ‘racist structures are quite real in assessment and elsewhere regardless of good intentions that teachers and scholars bring to the set-up of those structures. For me, racism is in the results if the results draw a color line.’”

Penn State pressured him to “ensure consistent grades for students across ‘color lines,’ otherwise, his actions would demonstrate racism. He would be condemned as a racist,” the suit said.

But De Piero rejected this and used an assessment methodology (that) all students, regardless of race, can achieve success if they put in timely work.


However, after George Floyd died, the antiracist training “reached a new fever pitch,” the lawsuit said.

Penn State held a video conference on racism on June 5, 2020. The Penn State trainer expressed her intention to cause Penn State’s White faculty to “feel the pain” that George Floyd endured. “Apparently, at Penn State, the only acceptable method to right historical wrongs is to visit additional ‘pain’ on other racial groups,” the suit said. De Piero and other non-minority faculty were “thus singled out, caused to experience discomfort and feel ‘the pain’ on the basis of their skin color.”

The trainer also “encouraged illegal activity, such as looting.”

“‘What we call looting, I think of as just getting what you’re due,’” the suit quotes her as saying.

The next morning another professor “hectored De Piero about ‘history and White male privilege,’ telling him that resistance to wearing masks is “‘is also more likely to be led by White males than in classrooms taught by women and people of color.’”

Later that week, Aneessah Smith, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State Abington sent an email to the entire faculty and staff instructing them that “Black and Brown people are calling on White people’ to ‘stop being afraid of your own internalized White supremacy.”

She “sent an email to all Penn State Abington faculty, staff, and administrators, instructing all Penn State employees that ‘Black and Brown people are calling on White people’ to ‘stop being afraid of your own internalized White supremacy.’ She instructed White employees to ‘stop talking’ while simultaneously directing members of the white Penn State community to ‘hold other White people accountable.’ She promoted a hostile environment on the basis of race by instructing Penn State’s White employees to ‘feel terrible,’” the suit said.

De Piero’s supervisor told the writing faculty to teach “that White supremacy exists in language itself, and therefore, that the English language itself is ‘racist’ and, furthermore, that white supremacy exists in the teaching of writing of English, and therefore writing teachers are themselves racist White supremacists’ and that ‘reverse racism isn’t racism.’ In doing so, (she) expressed her view that racism practiced against white faculty and students is legitimate,” the suit said.

Penn State did not respond to requests for comment. The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism  (FAIR) is representing De Piero, with local attorneys Michael Allen and Samantha Harris.

In addition to monetary damages as determined at trial, De Piero is seeking to have his Penn State disciplinary records expunged. De Piero lives in Bucks County with his wife and 4-year-old daughter. He’s teaching at Northampton Community College now.

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PA House Committee Passes Bill Forcing Doctors to Perform Sex Reassignment Surgery

Would the new legislation approved by the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee require doctors to participate in sex-reassignment medical treatment regardless of their personal beliefs?

Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-Bellevue) certainly thinks so. During the committee’s hearing, she gave an impassioned speech, at times pounding on her desk and affirming that the bill would require doctors to perform procedures that might violate their ethical or religious views.

“When you talk about whether physicians are going to be required to do X, Y, Z—yes!” Kinkead said. “If it does no harm. If it, in fact, helps people, and when we deny gender-affirming care to people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, that is causing harm, and absolutely we should be holding the doctors accountable who deny life-saving care to people.”

That was the basis of GOP objections to the bill, which amends the Human Relations Act. They said that setting aside views on LGBT issues, the law as proposed, would require doctors to participate in sex-change medical procedures, even if they oppose it on religious, philosophical, or medical grounds. Those procedures range from puberty-blocking hormones to surgeries to remove girls’ breasts and removing boys’ penises and testicles, as well as medically-unnecessary hysterectomies and shaving Adam’s apples.

Democrats brushed aside GOP concerns.

“No matter who you are or who you love, you are welcome here in Pennsylvania. No one should ever be discriminated against, treated differently, or made to feel less than a human being because of who they love or how they identify,” said committee Chair Tim Briggs (D-King of Prussia).

Sponsor Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), who is gay, said the bill was first introduced in 2001. He argued that in “too many” areas of the state, people can be discriminated against legally.

But Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Waynesboro) said he was concerned about medical freedom. He asked if doctors would be required to provide “a gender reassignment procedures such as a hysterectomy for a biological female who identifies as male?” He asked what protections were provided.

Kenyatta tried to brush aside those concerns, saying they were not “germane to the bill. What we are talking about is our Human Relations Commission” and adding “a number of protected classes.”

Schemel said a California court ruled that a law with “nearly identical” language to HB 300 required a Catholic hospital to perform a hysterectomy “on an otherwise healthy, biological female.” He also asked if the bill would require health care providers to prescribe puberty-blocking or cross-ex hormones.

“The language of this bill would put into jeopardy those who want to express their own liberty and freedoms not to require  (them) to provide puberty blockers, which is a program of treatment for gender dysphoric children, which is quickly in European nations becoming illegal.”

Kenyatta said, “I would urge you to be on the right side of history (and) reconsider telling all your constituents, no matter who they love or how they identify, that their representative represents them.” He accused Schemel of using “talking points.”

Schemel replied, “I think this is a personal attack.”

Rep. David Rowe (R-Middleburg) said there would be unintended consequences if the bill passes. A similar law is in effect in Canada, resulting in rape victims in a women’s shelter being raped again by two different men who claimed they were women to gain entrance. Under Canada’s law, they had to be admitted since they identified as women.

Rep. Chris Pielli (D-West Chester) said, “We could talk all day about the victims of our gay community and what they face.”

In the Army, many gay service members could not come out under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, he said. “The fact that we don’t have this bill is embarrassing. I’m doing this for all those soldiers. I’m doing this for my two kids who came out to me in high school.”

Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) said, “I don’t need to have a critical mass of lesbian-headed households in my district to do the right thing. I don’t need to be the father of a queer son to know what’s right. I know that none should be a second-class citizen. I’m old-fashioned that way.”

Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Paoli) said doctors take an oath “that includes serving and making sure people get well.” And that oath “is between them and their patients.”

It is “not something people without medical degrees should be speaking about,” Shusterman said.

Schemel spoke again, saying the legislation is not just about ensuring the rights of LGBT people, but rather, “is much more broadly drafted. It impacts a lot of areas of the law, some in conflict with others. It has broad implications for individuals who provide services.”

It “requires those in certain occupations and professions to do things they might find philosophically or morally, religiously, ethically, or medically impossible,” said Schemel. “That’s why I oppose this legislation. It’s much more broad than what’s being presented.”


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Former Delaware County Employee Files Discrimination Lawsuit

This article first appeared in Broad & Liberty 

The former assistant director of labor relations for Delaware County filed a lawsuit against the county in February claiming he was abruptly and wrongly fired after he investigated allegations that the county’s purchasing director harassed and bullied one of her employees. The complaint also alleges that a third and current employee, whose investigations supported the person making the original allegations against his supervisor, was simultaneously demoted without explanation.

Despite the fact the lawsuit claims three persons were ultimately wronged by the county’s managers, it is only filed by a single plaintiff, Hector Figueroa, who previously served as the county’s assistant director of labor relations at the time of his dismissal in August.

A spokeswoman for the county said the allegations were “without merit” and signaled the county was ready to fight the matter in court rather than settle.

The core matter began with Franklin Fitzgerald, a purchasing agent, who, according to the complaint, claimed he was being harassed and bullied by his supervisor, Lisa Jackson, the county’s purchasing director.

In Figueroa’s telling, Jackson “discriminated” against Fitzgerald “on account of his gender.”

The filing goes on to describe a number of minor investigations into Fitzgerald’s claims, investigations that brought a number of other high-level officials into the scene, like then-Chief Personnel Officer Jamal Johnson.

Figueroa’s complaint says he and Johnson conducted interviews with several other county employees who witnessed interactions between Jackson and Fitzgerald, resulting in Johnson authoring a damning email of the findings.

“Given the responses to the interviews, Franklin Fitzgerald’s account is substantiated — Lisa Jackson’s account is entirely unsubstantiated. Furthermore, the accounts we have about the behavior of Director Jackson are not only alarming, they easily meet the threshold of ‘workplace bullying and retaliation,’” the email by Johnson purportedly said.

That email was only transcribed into the complaint and was not attached as an exhibit to the court filing.

Johnson suggested Jackson be placed on administrative leave for a further investigation, but Figueroa says those findings and recommendations only upset Deputy Director Marc Woolley.

The conflict came to a head on Aug. 23, 2022. According to the complaint, that’s when Woolley fired Figueroa and demoted Johnson.

The account does not specify when or how Fitzgerald separated from the county. Payroll records obtained previously by Broad + Liberty show that of Fitzgerald’s total earnings in 2022, nearly 80 percent of those earnings had already been claimed by the end of July, suggesting Fitzgerald did not last much longer.

Payroll records support the notion, but are not conclusive, that Johnson was demoted. His total earnings for 2022 showed a steep drop after the end of July.

Calls to Figueroa’s lawyer, Noah Cohen of the law firm Weir Greenblatt Pierce, LLP, were not returned. Broad + Liberty was unable to locate contact information for Fitzgerald.

As is always the case with legal complaints, the narrative only tells one side of the story, and is intended to win more than to be fair. Additionally, the county has not yet told its side of the story in the legal reply.

The county declined to answer specific questions about many of the individuals involved in the case, but spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky said by email, “The County believes the claims in the lawsuit are without merit, and will be vigorously defending the matter in court.”

Bucks, Montgomery Senators Push to Close Women’s ‘Pay Gap.’ Experts Say It’s Not So Simple.

“It is inconceivable that in 2023, women in Pennsylvania still earn less than their male colleagues for the same work.”

That claim, from state Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks), echoes decades of arguments from feminists and other left-wing activists who have alleged that women are paid considerably less than their male colleagues for doing the same jobs.

Santarsiero last week introduced a bill meant to help remedy the “pay gap” allegedly suffered by women in Pennsylvania. The proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), is meant to update the state’s existing equal pay laws to help “reinvigorate Pennsylvania’s economy, and lift women and children out of poverty,” as Santarsiero said in a press release.

“Pennsylvania women still earn even less on the dollar than women in other states,” Collett said in the release, arguing the “disparity is even more pronounced for women of color.”

Santarsiero’s office did not respond to a request for more information on the senator’s claims about wage gaps. Bailey Landis, a spokeswoman for Collett’s office, indicated her claims about pay gaps were drawn from data gathered by the American Association of University Women.

“There are certainly many contributing factors to the gender pay gap, as the senators mention in their bill memo,” Landis told the Delaware Valley Journal. “This bill would specifically update Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law to make needed improvements and prevent wage discrimination.”

Activists regularly claim the gap is due in no small part to anti-woman discrimination by employers. Yet after years of advocacy and research, the evidence for a major artificial gap between men’s and women’s pay rates remains elusive, with experts claiming that a variety of factors affect the difference between male and female salaries, of which outright discrimination is only one small possibility.

Metropolitan State University at Denver Professor Christina Huber told DVJ that “much of the gender pay gap reflects the fact that women continue to be overrepresented in underpaying jobs.”

Huber, a professor of economics, said that on average “men and women choose different types of occupations.”

“If we compare men and women within the same occupation, then nearly one-third of the gender pay gap disappears,” she said.

“Much of the rest of the gap reflects that even within the same occupations, women choose different types of careers,” Huber continued.

She cited a hypothetical in which a man and woman both begin at a law firm after graduating from law school, where both will make the same salary.

“However, over the next several years as the woman starts a family, she is more likely to move from the demanding, high-powered law firm to a more family-friendly firm, that allows flexible working hours and perhaps remote work at home,” she continued.

Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew Research, said that “the vast literature on the gender pay gap has identified a multitude of factors, some linked more closely to issues at the workplace (e.g., pay levels) and others more closely linked to issues outside of the workplace,” like parenthood.

“[A]s far as I am aware, consensus on the precise contribution of each of these factors is lacking,” Kochhar continued. “In other words, I couldn’t say that X percent of the pay gap is due to this factor, Y percent is due to that factor, and so on.”

The compensation and data firm Payscale said in an analysis this year that when controlled for extraneous factors, the gender pay gap is $0.01, or one penny.

“Although .99 cents may seem very close to $1, small differences in earnings on the dollar can compound over the course of a lifetime career,” the firm argued.

Huber argued that, though the small pay gap after controlling for factors is “likely to reflect discrimination,” though she said existing laws have already done well to reduce that aspect of the gap.

“Our nation’s discrimination laws have worked very well at eliminating pay discrimination among men and women, but there is likely some small aspect remaining,” she said.

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Chester County Settles With Former Detective Chief Fired by DA

Although Chester County agreed to pay Kevin Dykes $126,000 in a recent settlement agreement obtained by Delaware Valley Journal, the county and district attorney did not admit any wrongdoing.

Dykes had sought more than $150,000, claiming District Attorney Deb Ryan discriminated against him because he is Black. In a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year, he called her actions “outrageous and malicious.”

Previously Dykes, of Kennett Square, was chief of county detectives. He contended Ryan treated him differently than his White counterparts, the suit said.

Chief Kevin Dykes

A former Pennsylvania state trooper before he was hired by Chester County in 2002, he rose through the ranks under three different district attorney administrations to become the first African American chief of detectives for Chester County under former District Attorney Tom Hogan.

“When a district attorney is accused of racial discrimination, it is troubling,” Hogan said. “When a district attorney capitulates and settles a racial discrimination lawsuit, essentially giving the plaintiff what was demanded in the suit, it is telling. This entire incident is a stain on the history of the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.”

The settlement agreement stipulates neither Dykes nor county officials may discuss its terms.

In the lawsuit, Dykes claimed Ryan told him she was firing him because he was part of the previous administration. However, Ryan met with another employee who was White and allowed him to stay on to achieve “superannuation” of his pension. She did not ask Ryan where he was in the pension process or offer him a chance to stay on.

When Dykes asked to delay his termination for four days in order to not affect his county pension because he would be joining the sheriff’s office, she refused and demanded his gun, computer, and badge, the suit said.

Ryan also removed Dykes from the Chester County Law Enforcement Task Force on Race and Justice, the suit said.

Dykes’ lawyer, Dolores Troiani, said both were Democrats so party affiliation was not the issue and that other White employees who kept their jobs were Republicans. Troiani said the issue was Dykes’ race.

Dykes is a member of a “protected class” under federal law, she said. Although he could be fired, as can any employee, he “can’t be fired for the wrong reason,” she said.

Dykes, who is now chief deputy for the county sheriff’s office, took a $50,000 a year pay cut by changing jobs after Ryan fired him, Troiani said.

Under the settlement, Dykes dropped his claims against Ryan and the county. He can keep any pension he has accrued and the county will not pay his legal fees.

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Chester County DA Deb Ryan Hit With Discrimination Suit

A longtime Chester County law enforcement official is suing the county and District Attorney Deb Ryan for more than $150,000 claiming racial discrimination for “outrageous and malicious”’ actions.

In the civil rights lawsuit, filed in federal court, Kevin Dykes, of Kennett Square, an African American who was chief of the county detectives, claims Ryan treated him differently than his White counterparts after she was elected in 2019.

Chief Kevin Dykes

Dykes was a former Pennsylvania state trooper before he was hired as a detective by Chester County in 2002. He rose through the ranks under three different district attorney administrations, becoming the first African American chief of detectives under former DA Tom Hogan.

Ryan told Dykes she was firing him because he was part of the previous administration. Three days later, Ryan, who is White, met with a lieutenant, who was also part of the previous administration. During her conversation with that person, she asked where he was in his career and permitted him to stay another year so he could achieve “superannuation” of his pension, the suit said. Ryan, in contrast, did not ask Dykes where he was in his career or offer him the chance to stay on.

Instead, when Dykes requested to delay his termination by four days so as not to affect his county pension because he would be joining the sheriff’s office, she refused and demanded that he turn in his computer, gun, and badge, the suit said.

However, White employees transferring to another department were not denied the use of their work computers, the suit said.

Subsequently, Ryan allegedly retaliated against Dykes, accusing him of improperly using a county credit card before she took office. That charge that had been previously approved by her predecessor, the suit said.

She also had Dykes removed from the Chester County Law Enforcement Task Force on Race and Justice that was formed after the George Floyd killing using the pretense that only one person from a department should be on the committee, although her department had more than one member, the suit said.

DA Deb Ryan

Dolores Troiani, a lawyer for Dykes, said both Ryan and Dykes are registered Democrats, so political party affiliation did not come into play in the disparate treatment that Dykes allegedly received. And indeed, the White employees who received favorable treatment were Republicans.

“It’s racial,” she said about what happened to her client. Dykes is a member of a “protected class” under federal law. Although he could be fired, as can any employee, he “can’t be fired for the wrong reason,” she said.

Dykes, who is now chief deputy for the county sheriff’s office, took a $50,000 reduction in his pay in changing jobs after Ryan fired him, Troiani said.

The suit claims that because of Ryan’s actions, Dykes “suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm.”

The suit demands that he be reinstated to his previous job and that he receive all previous job benefits, including “back pay,” “front pay,” attorney, and litigation expenses. Dykes also asks to be compensated for “pain, suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, harm to reputation, embarrassment, humiliation, (and) loss of enjoyment of life.”

The suit asks the court to require the county to “eliminate all unlawful discriminatory practices and procedures, including all racially directed terminations and discipline and remedy all discriminatory effects of past practices and procedures.”

“The district attorney unequivocally denies all allegations of this meritless claim,” said Michelle Bjork, Ryan’s communications director. “The district attorney does not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

“Chester County government does not tolerate discrimination and denies it occurred in this case. As such, the county intends to vigorously defend itself against this allegation,” said Rebecca Brain, a spokeswoman for Chester County.


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