SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico - Eight educators are suing the Gadsden Independent School District on accusations of discrimination, retaliation and hostility from district leadership, according to court documents obtained by ABC-7.
"We need to change the culture at the Gadsden Independent School District," said Victoria Lopez, a kindergarten teacher at Berino Elementary.
Lopez said she has 21 years of experience at Berino Elementary where she has spent her entire career serving thousands of students. The kindergarten teacher told ABC-7 that she understands the community and has two master's degrees, as well as a certificate to teach English to speakers of other languages and bilingual certification.
Despite her knowledge of the community and extensive experience, Lopez said she has applied and been rejected for nine leadership roles in the district. She pursued her second master's degree after she said former Berino Elementary leaders promised her an assistant principal role at the school.
“I was misled," Lopez said. "I was promised that position.”
She told ABC-7 that she has been passed over for multiple positions by out-of-state candidates who do not have her qualifications and cannot Spanish. Lopez suspects her sexual harassment allegations against a former assistant principal and a current colleague affected her chances of holding a leadership position.
“It feels like a slap in my face because I knew I was a qualified candidate," Lopez said. "But by being an outspoken female and not backing down from my beliefs, I get blackballed.”
Seven other educators are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
According to the documents, Priscilla Bohn said she was forced to retire early this summer after allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted touching.
She claims a principal told her "You are too old. Go home and retire."
Other educators accused the district of discrimination based on disability, race and gender.
A spokesman for the Gadsden Independent School District declined to comment on any details in the lawsuit because it is pending litigation. On the Veteran's Day holiday, he could not say whether the district had been served.
Lopez said she will continue her passion of working with kindergarteners, even as she is fighting her employer.
“You could be the sole person fighting the cause, but you’re going to be the person that’s going to make a difference eventually," Lopez said. "That’s what I instill in my students. We do not give up.”