EXCLUSIVE: Former McClymonds asst. principal sues OUSD for alleged discrimination, retaliation

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ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Thursday, October 7, 2021
EXCLUSIVE: Former McClymonds asst. principal sues OUSD
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Former Assistant Principal Cleveland McKinney says it was his efforts to expose the problems at McClymond's that got him demoted and eventually fired.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A once-prominent administrator at West Oakland's McClymond's High School is speaking out about alleged abuses and substandard conditions at the predominantly African American high school. In a federal whistleblower lawsuit, longtime former Assistant Principal Cleveland McKinney says it was his efforts to expose the problems at McClymond's that got him demoted, and eventually fired.

For years, former Assistant Principal Cleveland McKinney was in many ways the face of West Oakland's McClymond's High School, perhaps it's most passionate champion.

"McClymonds is a gem," said McKinney. "We were on top of the world. We were graduating kids. Kids were getting academic scholarships, athletic scholarships, we were winning state titles."

Now, McKinney is the plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It's a whistleblower claim against the Oakland Unified School District, saying he was retaliated against for trying to expose alleged abuses of Black students, and substandard conditions, including contaminated water at McClymonds.

Full Complaint Document:

"We had teachers, staff members that would berate students. We had teachers or staff that would actually punch students," said McKinney, who told ABC7News he went to school and district administrators repeatedly with his concerns.

McKinney also alleges that $50,000 in donations for students activities was redirected to administrator salaries, that a teacher was sexual harassing female Muslim students and another teacher was shooting dice and gambling with students.

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In a separate allegation, McKinney claimed that a Spanish teacher at McClymonds admitted, he did not even speak Spanish.

According to the lawsuit, in August 2016, McKinney reported to an OUSD administrator that the water in the McClymonds' locker rooms appeared dirty and orange.

Despite McKinney's concerns--and those of other coaches and teachers at McClymond's--the suit claims "it was not until August 2017 that OUSD revealed to the public, including parents, that there was lead in the kitchen tap water."

"The water piece was mind-blowing," said McKinney. "Let's be clear, this would not have happened in a white area. This would not have happened in a Concord, this would not have happened in a Piedmont."

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McKinney claims it was his efforts to be a whistleblower that prompted OUSD to first demote, and then eventually fire him.

"Instead of taking care of the problems, they got rid of Mr. McKinney," said Sonya Mehta, McKinney's attorney. "What the kids really need is Mr. McKinney back at school."

ABC7 News reached out to district spokesman John Sasaki for comment and he responded that "OUSD does not comment on pending litigation."

McKinney's lawsuit seeks money damages and his reinstatement as an administrator at McClymonds.

Barring a settlement, the case is set to go to trial next August.