TCC settles lesbian former professor’s discrimination suit for $160K

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Tarrant County College administrators agreed to pay a former lesbian professor more than $160,000 as part of a settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department at the Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

Gill sought compensation for the time she was unemployed, as well as the opportunity to complete the application process at TCC, her attorney Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, previously told Instant Tea.

Although the settlement doesn’t accept liability, Lambda Legal announced that TCC agreed to pay Gill more than $160,000 and to provide her with a positive letter of recommendation.

TCC, which adopted a nondiscrimination policy that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation last March, added a written policy prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The new policy was not part of the settlement, according to the statement.

“Jackie’s fight resulted in a published decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that makes it clear that public employers can no longer claim ignorance about whether discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution,” Upton said in a statement.

—  Anna Waugh

Ex-TCC professor’s anti-gay bias suit advances

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

FORT WORTH – In a preliminary victory for a lesbian former professor, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied a motion Monday by Tarrant County College administrators to dismiss her lawsuit alleging she was prevented from interviewing for a permanent teaching position based on her sexual orientation.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed a complaint in September 2011 stating she was unable to interview for a permanent position in the English department after her yearlong temporary position had expired.

The co-defendants, English Department Chair Eric Devlin and Dean of Humanities Antonia Howell, sought qualified immunity, which guards state officials from liability unless there is an established law. However, discrimination by public employees based on sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution, said Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal who is presenting Gill.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has said that that’s not a valid basis for discriminating,” Upton said. “What we wanted to show is that it is clearly established that you don’t get to judge someone’s job performance based on sexual orientation. … (The court) ruled that it was clearly established when they treated Jackie differently presumably based on the fact that they thought she’s a lesbian.”

—  Anna Waugh

Deaths • W.D. “David” Walls, Dr. Kenneth Ellery Riha

W.D.-David-Walls-obitW.D. “David” Walls, 54, died of cancer on Sept. 6 at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth.

Born Dec. 13, 1956, Walls had lived in the Fort Worth area all his life. He graduated from Springtown High School in Springtown, and later from Tarrant County College in Fort Worth.
He owned his own business, and he and Terry Mills were legally married March 26, 2010, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Walls was preceded in death by his father, W.D. Walls Sr.; and his brothers, Terry Walls Sr. and Marvin Walls.

He is survived by his spouse, Terry Mills-Walls, of North Richland Hills; his brother, Trevor Walls of Fort Worth; his nephews, Terry Walls Jr. of Azle and Phillip Steele of Fort Worth; his nieces, Shana Thompson of Azle and Caressa Walls Holland of Trophy Club; his sister-in-law, Ina Walls; his aunt, Dora Walls of Athens, Texas; and his cousins, Jenny Wiles of Bedford, and Kristy and Vance Fincher and Elizabeth Schultz, all of Athens, Texas.

A private memorial service will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, from noon to 4 p.m. in Keller.

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Dr. Kenneth Ellery Riha, D.D.S., 48, died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure on Sept. 6 while celebrating his birthday with friends and colleagues in Cancun.

Born Sept. 10, 1962 in Houston to JoAnn Marie Riha and Ellery Robert Riha, Riha graduated from Klein Forest High School in 1981, received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Texas A&M University in 1986 and earned a doctorate of dental science from the University of Texas Dental School in San Antonio in 1990. He established Dental Solutions in Dallas on June 6, 1997. Riha believed a smile should be the universal language and devoted his career to improving the health, well-being, and self-esteem of others through dentistry. He felt it important to provide a soothing atmosphere, creating an exclusive doctor-patient communication and singular focus by scheduling only one patient at a time.

Ken-Riha-obitRiha was an alumnus of X Psi Phi Dental Fraternity, served as president of the fraternity from 1988 to 1989 and rush chairman from 1989 to 1990. In 1990, he joined the American Dental Association, the Texas Dental Association and the Dallas County Dental Society. He served on the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Alumni Advisory Board from 1992 to 1995.

Riha served as the clinician host for the Southwest Dental Conference in 2008 and 2009, and was a host committee volunteer at the ADA Session in San Antonio in 2008. He was highly respected by his peers and was very proud to have received Texas Monthly Magazine’s distinguished “Texas Super Dentist” Award in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Riha lived life in a playful manner and had a zest for pulling pranks. His biggest passions were Texas A&M University, travel and charity. He graduated in the Fighting Texas Aggie Class of ’86 and bled maroon. He was a Century Club member of the Texas A&M University Former Student Association and was known to turn his phone off during Aggie football games, so he could watch and cheer without interruption.

He vacationed with family and friends around the world and his favorite destinations were Greece, Hawaii, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the Caribbean Islands. He thoroughly enjoyed skiing the slopes of Beaver Creek, Deer Valley, Park City, Santa Fe, Sundance, Taos, Vail and Vancouver. He also cherished his visits to New Orleans, Lansing and McComb, Miss.

Riha’s door was always open to his family and friends through losses, challenges, disappointments, tribulations, triumphs and celebrations. He was a rock of support for his friends and a remarkably fun-loving, kind, compassionate and giving soul. His drive, tenacity and determination were an inspiration to all who knew him. He believed in helping those less fortunate and gave generously to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. He co-hosted Blend-A-Rama for many years, with proceeds going to the Bryan’s House and Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Dallas.

Riha believed his time on earth was not without predestined purpose and assignment. He came and enveloped people with his contagious smile and embraced them in his infectious laughter. He never met a stranger and celebrated the differences in all he encountered. Though his physical presence is no longer here, you can still feel his gentleness in the calm winds, see his smile in the rising sun, hear his words of comfort in the soft singing of the wind chime and celebrate his life with your next smile.

Riha was preceded in death by his grandparents, Sophie and Robert Riha and Francis and Lawrence Grall.

He is survived by his mother, JoAnn Riha, and Jim Ingham; his father, Ellery Riha, and wife Alice; his sister, Theresa Riha; his brothers, Stephen Riha and wife Bridget, and Michael Riha; his step-brother, Kevin Goss and wife Jody; his step-sister Stephanie Doyle and husband Brian; his nieces, Baileigh Sophie and Peighton Grace Riha, Emily Goss and Madison Doyle; his nephews, Jacob Goss and Christian Doyle; his aunts, Colette Riha, Dolores Kupsh and husband Harry, and Kathy Grall; and numerous loving extended family members and dear friends.

Friends are invited to join the family for a celebration of Riha’s life Saturday, Sept. 24, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dallas World Aquarium, 1801 N. Griffin St. Donations in his memory can be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital (StJude.org), DIFFA/Dallas (DIFFADallas.org) or Bryan’s House (BryansHouse.org.

—  Kevin Thomas

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Professor files federal lawsuit accusing Tarrant County College of anti-gay discrimination

Jackie Gill, left, watches as Lambda Legal staff attorney Ken Upton speaks to a reporter Wednesday morning during a press conference announcing Gill’s employment discrimination lawsuit against Tarrant County College.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE COMPLAINT

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill today filed suit against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that after serving as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year, she was denied the opportunity to apply for permanent position with the school because of the department chair’s bias against what he perceived as her sexual orientation.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Uptown, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibsonb, Dunn and Crutcher. The suit names as defendants chair of Northeast Campus’ English Department, Eric Devlin, and Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell.

Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Gill said that in October a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes. The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

—  admin

Students for a Democratic Society forms at El Centro

STUDENT RADICALS | Deante Toombs, left, Stephen Benavides, standing, and Brashad Lewis helped revive the ’60s anti-war group SDS on college campuses in the Dallas area. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

LGBT rights are now a central issue for the anti-Vietnam War group revived in 2006

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Students at El Centro College and UT Arlington have organized new chapters of Students for a Democratic Society, and the group has popped up on as many as 90 college campuses around the country.

The reincarnation of SDS, a major force in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era, began in 2006.

At the Equality March for LGBT rights held in Downtown Dallas on June 25, members of SDS marched for gay rights and spoke at the rally at the JFK Memorial. All of the SDS members participating were straight.

Brashad Lewis does public relations for the local groups and plans to start a group on a Tarrant County College campus that he’ll attend in the fall.

He said the group hopes to bring the national convention of SDS chapters to Dallas or Arlington in October. They’ve submitted their bids and will hear back soon.

But organizers say that should the Dallas bid win, one minor obstacle stands in the way: The El Centro group is currently without a faculty advisor.

Stephen Benavides, a graduate student at UTA, said that he was at El Centro and a Dallas County Community College officer motioned for him to come over and then assaulted him with a police baton.

Benavides said that a complaint has been filed.

Then four days later, the faculty advisor to the group abruptly quit.

Deante Toombs, an El Centro student, said that to reserve rooms for the conference, the group needs to be recognized, but finding another faculty advisor should be no problem.

Benavides said that the advisor at UTA is a former SDS member from the ’60s with tenure and has no fear of reprisals.

But he said that the incident at El Centro shows that the group is being followed and members being targeted despite the peaceful history of SDS.

In another incident, SDS organized a protest of cuts to teaching staff and financial aid and increased class size. Protesters planned to meet at Rosa Parks Plaza near El Centro. Rather than the peaceful demonstration planned, marchers were met with DART police on bicycles blocking entrance to the square. Marchers used streets and sidewalks instead and paraded on downtown streets to protest the cuts.

Toombs said that LGBT equality is a central issue for SDS.

“SDS stands in solidarity with issues affecting minorities, gays, women,” Toombs said.

“It’s 2011,” Benavides said. “Are we still having problems with this now?”

He said that’s why the group participated in the Equality March and may march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
Toombs said that the group is being targeted differently than it was in the ’60s. Then the FBI infiltrated with agitators to get information while trying to break the groups up through dissention.

Today, they’re being threatened with prosecution under the Patriot Act as if they’re a terrorist threat.

In addition to local campus issues, the original SDS organized nationally to protest the Vietnam War. Benavides said that local issues — LGBT rights, cuts in school funding — are important to SDS groups across the country, but the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya are why they came together.

Lewis said the attacks from campus police, reportedly instigated by federal authorities that want SDS disbanded, are using the divide and conquer method.

Toombs said that the group at El Centro has protested peacefully and exercised its right of free speech.

What has surprised him is the power the name still holds 40 years after the original group officially folded.

SDS is the model for all types of student groups based on causes that followed over succeeding decades — women’s rights, LGBT rights, AIDS, civil rights, environmental issues. These groups worked on a shoestring budget and used direct action to demand certain results. Without Facebook or the Internet to interact, SDS held annual national conventions to meet each other and exchange ideas.

At a convention in 1969, SDS officially ended, but a number of local campus groups lasted into the early to mid ’70s to continue protesting the war and to work on local campus issues.

Best known among early SDS organizers was Tom Hayden. Hayden later went on to serve in the California Legislature and ran for governor and mayor of Los Angeles and was a U.S. senator. But he is still best known as the first husband of Jane Fonda. At the time, Fonda was known more for her antiwar activism rather than her acting.

Bernadette Dohrn, another well-known SDS member, founded the radical wing known as the Weather Underground with her husband Bill Ayers. Dohrn is now an associate professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, but during the early ’70s, she was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

Still, most of the actions of the group were peaceful. They staged draft-card burnings to protest the war. They did sit-ins to take over campus administration buildings. They marched and rallied.

Benavides said that if they took over a campus building today, they’d send in the SWAT team.

But Benavides, Toombs and Lewis have fashioned their campus groups on the model of the peaceful wing of the group.

“Education is a right,” Benavides said.

Toombs said that discrimination can’t be tolerated.

But none proposed any violent action to achieve their goals.

On July 27, SDS is sponsoring a conference on Islamophobia and the New McCarthyism at UTA. They’re working on a women’s conference in August and hope to host the national convention in October. David Taffet, who wrote this article, was a member of SDS at SUNY Albany in the early 1970s.

—  John Wright

World AIDS Day briefs

CURE hosting Quilt panels

The Collin County group Community Unity Respect Education will present about a dozen panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Plano Nov. 29 – Dec. 1. The quilt panels will be displayed at Event1013, 1013 E. 15th St. in Plano on Monday and Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The venue is in downtown Plano and valet parking will be available. Volunteers will discuss the quilt project and tell the stories of some of the people whose panels are displayed. Among the panels is one honoring Resource Center Dallas’ original executive director, John Thomas.

At the event, CURE President Rosemary Odom will announce plans for a large display of panels next year at the Dallas Convention Center to mark the 30th anniversary of when the disease was named AIDS.

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World AIDS Day events at AOC

AIDS Outreach Center will participate in two World AIDS Day events.

At Tarrant County College SE Campus in Arlington, free HIV testing will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, the school will present panels, speakers and information.

AOC will also participate in the Minority Leadership Citizens Council meeting at noon at Community Christian Church Annex, 1800 E. Vickery Blvd. in Fort Worth. Outreach Center staff member John Reed will lead a discussion and offer facts figures and trends. A panel of HIV positive people will tell their stories and explain what it is like living with HIV.

That meeting will be recorded and broadcast on the city of Fort Worth cable channel. It will be repeated throughout the week.

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Sprinkles honors World AIDS Day

Sprinkles Cupcakes will do its first World AIDS Day promotion from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 1, with 100 percent of the proceeds from the red ribbon red velvet cupcakes sold in all seven stores across the country donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The Dallas store is in Preston Center.

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AIN plans World AIDS Day event

Clients and staff of AIDS Interfaith Network will offer a program of remembrance, music, and celebration in the Daire Center at 11 a.m. Staff and volunteers will serve the clients lunch. After lunch, AIN will hold a candlelight memorial in their lobby.

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World AIDS Day in Denton

In Denton, a World AIDS Day commemoration will be held on the square from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The event includes a candlelight vigil, tree dedication, poetry reading, speakers, information tables and free hot chocolate.

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P.R.I.S.M. marks World AIDS Day

To commemorate World AIDS Day on Wednesday, Dec. 1,  P.R.I.S.M. (Promoting Respect In Sexual Minorities), the gay-straight alliance for Navarro College in Corsicana, will hold activities intended to help build awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community. Dana Kennedy Hartney, case manager for Ellis and Navarro counties with Dallas-based AIDS Arms Inc., will be the guest speaker for the event set for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Hartney will speak on the topic, “Why everyone is affected by HIV/AIDS.”

The program will be held in the Gooch Student Center, Arrowhead Room, Navarro College, 3200 W. 7th Ave. in Corsicana. Refreshments will be provided. AIDS Arms will also provide free HIV testing Thursday, Dec. 2, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Gooch Student Center. The testing is open to the public and will include an information  table and people to answer questions.

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RCD  dedicating dental chair

On World AIDS Day, Resource Center Dallas will dedicate its new dental chair at Nelson Tebedo Clinic at 4 p.m.

RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell said the chair was purchased with Ryan White funds and replaces a chair that has been at the clinic since 1992. Dental care has become one of the major programs of the Nelson Tebedo Clinic. The clinic serves 65 patients every week.

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More World AIDS Day events

On Dec. 1, from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., Parkland hospital presents an education and a consumer fair for World AIDS Day at the Dallas Marriott City Center, 650 N. Pearl St. All of the Ryan White agencies in Dallas will have booths.

Dr. Kevin Murphy is the keynote speaker and will be available to answer questions. He is responsible for formulating the curriculum in AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Dallas County Health Department and organized the early surveillance of AIDS in Dallas.

The event is free and open to the public. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Parking in the Plaza of the Americas parking lot will be free. The entrance is on San Jacinto Street. The Marriott is adjacent to the Pearl Street DART station.

In Fort Worth, AIDS service providers are participating in a carnival and health fair at the Public Health Department, 1101 S. Main St., from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. All of the Ryan White service providers will be present. Food, games, gift card raffles and free HIV testing will be offered.

A memorial services will be conducted by The Revs. Carol West and Curtis Smith at 5 p.m.

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• FREE HIV TESTING

Free AIDS testing will be available at the following locations on World AIDS Day:

• AIDS Outreach Center, 400 N. Beach St., Fort Worth. 817-335-1994

• Tarrant County Public Health Department, 1101 S. Main St., Fort Worth. 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. 817-321-4700.

• Nelson Tebedo Clinic, 4012 Cedar Springs Road, 214-528-2336. Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments requested but can see some walk-ins. Dec. 3 all day. No appointments necessary. Free syphilis testing also.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens