GCISD Defendant Responds to Defamation Suit Dismissal

GCISD logo | Image by GCISD

A legal battle between a former principal and a local trustee that brought the issue of politics at school into focus was put to rest in court Thursday.

James Whitfield, employed as Colleyville Heritage High School’s principal between May 2020 and June 2021, pursued legal action against the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) and trustee Tammy Nakamura last March. Whitfield voluntarily resigned as principal in November 2021 after negotiating a mediated settlement agreement with GCISD, which included a proviso prohibiting disparaging remarks or retaliation by either party. However, Whitfield claimed in a legal filing that Nakamura had broken that agreement.

As reported by The Dallas Express, the Tarrant County 348th Judicial District Court ruled in a summary judgment that Whitfield’s claims be “dismissed with prejudice,” per court documents. Whitfield was thereby refused the monetary relief of $250,000 he had requested in his suit.

Nakamura told The Dallas Express that she had expected the court to dismiss Whitfield’s complaint, which she suggested was politically motivated.

“I was confident that we handled everything relating to Dr. Whitfield’s dismissal properly and legally, so not at all surprised,” she wrote in an email. “Sadly, this is another example of the liberal media exploiting a race-based situation without even attempting to be fair and apply the proper context. There’s no place for race or gender politics in our public schools. I’m happy the courts agree.”

As covered in The Dallas Express, Whitfield’s defamation claims came shortly after Nakamura allegedly made public statements regarding Whitfield at a trustee event on June 26, 2022, at a local RNC Community Center. The lawsuit indicates that she called him a “total activist” for “pushing a movement through” and that this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” leading to his termination.

Yet a court filing by Nakamura — elected to the board in May 2022 — points out that she was not a trustee when the settlement agreement between GCISD and Whitfield was established. The plea noted the absence of language in the agreement that would bind either individual or any successor trustees.

Shortly after he was appointed principal in 2020, Whitfield sent an email to all stakeholders at GCISD concerning the “recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor,” which allegedly caused a stir. Shortly after a lackluster end-of-year evaluation in June 2021, he posted this email on his social media account. He later sat for various media interviews, allegedly making several claims that GCISD later referred to as “dishonest” in settlement documents.

For instance, GCISD claimed that Whitfield had caused a community divide by “continuing to raise an issue about Critical Race Theory
when no one in the District administration believes you were teaching CRT or encouraging teachers at Colleyville Heritage High School to teach CRT.”

Moreover, two months before Whitfield and GCISD settled, Whitfield appeared on the Roland Martin Unfiltered YouTube podcast, where he claimed the issues between him and trustees stemmed from a group of “racist bigots that this school district has failed to stand up” to.

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