The two whistle-blowers who made public the racist and sexist text messages that caused two school administrators to resign in 2013 filed a lawsuit in federal court last week, saying Coatesville Area School District employees retaliated against them.
According to the suit, filed last Wednesday in U.S. District Court, the employees say district officials unfairly targeted them for increased scrutiny at work, limited their duties, threatened to fire them, and denied one of them an annual raise.
A former lawyer for the employees alleged in 2013 that the pair faced harassment at work and were the targets of an internal investigation by the district's former solicitor.
A month after the text messages became public, Thomas P. Hogan, Chester County's district attorney, said school district officials were harassing the employees.
Abdallah Hawa and Teresa Powell are asking for earnings they say they lost and compensation for pain, suffering, and mental anguish, according to the lawsuit, which details some of the text messages sent between then-Superintendent Richard Como and then-athletic director Jim Donato.
Sidney L. Gold, attorney for Hawa and Powell, said his clients had exhausted their other options before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which is why they are suing the school district.
The district's solicitor did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon. School officials referred all questions to the solicitor.
Hawa, 54, was director of technology when he found the messages on the administrators' cellphones. He has worked for the district for 18 years.
He said school district officials forced him to turn over confidential network passwords, and he feared he would be fired if he did not comply.
Powell, 44, was the middle schools director and has worked for the district for 13 years.
She said the current superintendent, Cathy Taschner, specifically excluded her from being eligible for a promotion to become the district's second assistant superintendent.
The school district wanted candidates to have six years of experience as a curriculum director, the lawsuit says. Powell had five.
Powell also said she was denied a 4 percent salary increase with no explanation from the district.