Queens Principal Faces Federal Lawsuit After Reportedly Targeting Black Teachers

A federal lawsuit claims a former Pan American International High School Principal targeted the schools three African-American teachers, hurling racist insults and undermining their careers.

By the end of 2015, Minerva Zanca’s first year at the Queens school, teachers John Flanagan, Heather Hightower and Lisa-Erika James were fired.

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According to reports, the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday (June 9) against the city Department of Education claims Zanca said Hightower looked like “a gorilla in a sweater” and “could never have nappy f—ing hair” like her. She complained to Assistant Principal Anthony Riccardo–who acted as a whistle blower–about Flannigan’s “big lips quivering.”

Riccardo said Zanca, who still remains on the city’s payroll acting as a guidance counselor at the Federick Ddouglass Academy IV Secondary School in Brooklyn, planned on giving poor remarks on the black teachers’ lessons plans prior to seeing them. When Zanca arrived at the school in 2012, of the 27 teachers in total, three were black. As of 2015, all the school’s black teachers have been fired.

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Zanca’s boss, District 28 Superintendent Juan Mendez is accused of turning a blind eye to Zanca’s complaints, and not disciplining her. He still still remains on the job.  The 11-page lawsuit also alleges Zanca cut the school’s successful theater program run by James alleging budget issues.