Chicago Public Schools Sued for Bias over HIV Status

October 11, 2011 ( - A Chicago Public Schools elementary teacher who is HIV-positive filed a discrimination lawsuit against the district.

According to the Chicago Tribune, in papers filed in U.S. District Court, Jumeck Smith accuses the principal at Von Humboldt Elementary on Chicago’s Northwest Side of failing to adhere to the district’s accommodations which allowed Smith to report to work five minutes later than his co-workers. Smith claims his HIV status limited his movement so that he was frequently reporting to work after the 8 a.m. start time for teachers.  

Smith’s attorney, Christopher Cooper told the Tribune that Smith, who taught fifth and eighth grades at Von Humboldt, was approached by the principal at the beginning of the school year and informed that his tardiness last year resulted in 15 citations that were being reported to CPS headquarters. Smith, who taught at the school for about six years, was removed from his eighth-grade classroom. 

The lawsuit alleges the principal knew of Smith’s HIV status and, over several weeks, harassed Smith to the point that the working environment had become hostile.  

Smith, who is African-American, also claims the principal discriminated against him because of his race. The student population at Von Humboldt is predominantly Latino.   

Smith, who currently is on paid leave, is seeking damages of at least $325,000.  

The Tribune said Von Humboldt’s principal, also a defendant in the case, could not be reached, and CPS officials did not respond to questions.