Jacksonville teacher suing DCPS over Black Lives Matter flag

JACKSONVILLE — A Jacksonville teacher is suing the Duval County School Board (DCPS) after public fallout last month over the removal of a Black Lives Matter flag outside her classroom.

Amy Donofrio was administratively reassigned to paid, non-teaching duties after the teacher garnered attention after speaking out on social media. In a March Facebook post, she said school leaders asked her to take down a BLM flag which, Donofrio claimed, had been hanging outside her Robert E. Lee High School classroom for months. When she failed to remove it, she said the flag was taken down by administrators.

Donofrio has reportedly not been allowed to teach or enter the school since March 25. The district told Action News Jax last month Donofrio was “under a human resources review for allegations of potential misconduct under school board policy and the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida.”

Now the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with civil rights firm Scott Wagner and Associates, are representing Donofrio in a new lawsuit. The teacher is suing the school district, as well as former principal supervisor Scott Schneider for “relentless retaliation and violation of her rights to free speech and expression.”

“I hope this case will set a needed precedent. Teachers should not be punished for supporting their students’ humanity,” said Donofrio. “Our students matter, and as educators, we will no longer tolerate them being systemically damaged, silenced, and failed. To our Black students, we see you, we stand with you, and you matter,” she continued.

DCPS employees are banned from backing social movements or causes including flags, banners or signage on district property. The official school policy states, “No employee shall use his/her position in any way to influence or attempt to influence students to support or oppose any candidate, party or issue. Such prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, any form of advocacy or opposition in a classroom or school setting or other school-related student-teacher relationship.”

But the suit alleges the timing of the request is suspect, saying it was only after speaking out against ‘hate speech’ at community meetings for the renaming of several Jacksonville public schools that administrators requested the flag be removed.

Following her removal, some of Donofrio’s students created a petition demanding the school “Bring Back Ms. Donofrio.” The creator of the petition, 17-year-old Jayla Caldwell, a senior at Lee High School said: “At my school we have this AMAZING teacher Ms. Amy Donofrio who has done nothing but support and push any child she came across for the best. She has always advocated for racial equality and social justice since before I even entered high school.”

Donofrio announced her lawsuit in a public Facebook post Friday saying, “I hope this case will set a needed precedent. Teachers should not be punished for supporting their students’ humanity. Our students matter, and as educators, we will no longer tolerate them being systemically damaged, silenced, and failed.”

Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a content creator and coordinator for Action News Jax.