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Teacher lawsuit: Denied a job because he's white

A South Jersey teacher has filed a federal Civil Rights suit claiming that a job offer to teach in Penns Grove was rescinded because he is white.

Brian Shields, of Logan Township, applied for a teaching job at Field Street Elementary School in summer 2013. Shields interviewed in early August with the school principal Mary Kwiatkowski and Joseph Massare, superintendent of Penns Grove Carney's Point Regional Schools. The superintendent allegedly offered Shields a job teaching second or third grade at the elementary school and discussed salary and benefits. Massare told Shields the school board would have to approve the hire, but assured Shields that the board always approved his recommendations, according to the suit.

The board met Aug. 12. During the meeting, "some individuals" accused the school board of not hiring enough minorities. Massare allegedly assured the board that several recent hires had been minorities, the suit states.

Despite the assurance, the board voted against hiring Shields and also rejected a second white job candidate. Massare called Shields after the meeting to tell him the board had refused to approve him because he was not a minority, the suit states.

Shields is seeking more than $150,000 in damages. His attorney, James M. Duttera of Moorestown, did not immediately return calls requesting comment. The school district also did not return calls.

The minutes for the Aug. 12 Penns Grove Carneys Point Regional School Board meeting do not include any mention of a debate or decision to reject Shields or the second job candidate. But according to a newspaper report, the meeting was tumultuous and some in the audience were upset the board didn't offer one of the teaching jobs to a township maintenance secretary.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Camden, names as defendants the school district, the Board of Education, school board president Gregory T. Wright and 10 John Does.