Tenn. School Security Officer Claims He Was Fired for Having Black Wife

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Last week a former school security officer for the Knox County Schools district in Tennessee filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination, claiming that he was fired from his job because his boss had a problem with the fact that his wife is black, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

In the lawsuit, filed in Knox County Circuit Court by attorney James A.H. Bell, John Smelser names the Knox County school board and Knox County government as defendants. The lawsuit claims that Chief of Security Gus Paidousis fired Smelser, who is white, last year after discovering that Smelser was married to a black woman, with whom he has two children. 


Smelser, the article notes, was hired in September 2014 and worked security at Shannondale Elementary School. He also helped train police cadets. 

In April 2015, Smelser was charged with domestic assault, stemming from an incident at his home involving his stepdaughter's boyfriend, the lawsuit notes, according to the Sentinel. Smelser was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the case, and on May 18, 2015, charges were dropped. 

However, when Smelser returned to work, he noticed that Paidousis "refused to speak" to him. The following day, Smelser received a letter dated May 15, 2015, from School Superintendent Jim McIntyre, saying, "It has been determined that your services are no longer needed." A reason for termination was not given. 

"Thereafter, the plaintiff was advised by several supervising officers employed by the defendants that Chief Paidousis had admitted to them that the reason [Smelser] was terminated was because he had a black wife and his children were black," the lawsuit stated, according to the Sentinel. "[Smelser] alleges that he was terminated due to being married to an African-American and that he had 'black' children. The failure to provide a reason by the defendants for [Smelser's] termination is a cover-up for blatant race discrimination."


Paidousis has been under scrutiny before, the Sentinel notes. Three school security captains made various complaints about him. They alleged that he made racist comments about Smelser's interracial marriage, sexually harassed a female employee, was prone to explosive anger that created an atmosphere of fear on the force, retaliated against uncooperative employees, and intimidated employees who complained by having surveillance devices installed and trained on their work stations. Another officer claimed that Paidousis showed favoritism in hiring. 

Read more at the Knox News Sentinel

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