ATLANTA - Several teachers are out of a job after they were let go by the Atlanta Public School District. The teachers have been let go after years of positive evaluations. They have since sue the district.
The crux of the lawsuit is the question: Did Atlanta Public Schools systematically terminate older teachers and then turn around, filling their slots with younger staff?
Two former APS instructors, Cathy Hopkins and Cheryl Patterson, both 60 years old, contend they were let go for financial reasons.
"His next words were 'Ms. Patterson, how many years do you have before you can retire?' and I stopped and I said, 'I hadn't even thought about that.' I hadn't even been at his school one full month, so that was a red flag for me," said Patterson.
Patterson had almost 40 years in the education field, Hopkins 37 and a half.
"My plan was to teach the full 40 years in my area, and the program was actually cut out, and you could kind of see some things were going on. Teachers were getting low evaluations when they really were doing their jobs," said Hopkins.
They are among eight in the lawsuit claiming age discrimination. The claim, if proven, is a protected federal class. Their attorney said a pattern existed. A court has already authorized class action status. The teacher' attorney will try to show his clients had decades of positive evaluations before a change to negative performance right before the alleged hammer came down on their careers.
"And every veteran teacher caught it. We were not allowed to go on educational trips," said Patterson. "My students scored higher than the state of Georgia in social studies and reading. But I loved every one of them. And when I finished with them, they made me proud. They made me proud to teach. And, you know, what I have come to realize, it's not about the kids, because if it was, why would you let a teacher that's reaching kids and improving them go? It's all about the money."
A spokesperson for the schools released a statement which reads in part:
"APS vehemently denies these allegations and intends to vigorously defend against these claims. The case is still in its early stages, and APS looks forward to proving that no such discrimination took place."