My Professional Career
My first professional jobs in Oxnard and Washington D.C.
My first professional job was as the Assistant Personnel Manager for the City of Oxnard. I conducted a study that demonstrated the police and fire departments hiring practices discriminated against minorities and women through overly restrictive height and strength screening requirements.
After moving to Washington D.C, and working for a U.S. Senator for a short period of time, I went to work for the welfare and social rehabilitation arm of the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare. I served as the Director of Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Enforcement for both the central office in Washington and our regional offices across the country.
From crusading newspaper publisher to civil rights attorney
Dee and I met in a small town in North Carolina, where I ran an award-winning community newspaper. I was threatened by the KKK and other local racists for my newspaper’s fearless investigative reporting on local racist activities and policies, as well as our extensive positive coverage of the local African American community.
It was a time of heightened racial tension in our rural Chatham County public schools, as court-ordered integration had only been implemented two years before I began as publisher and editor in 1973. For more than a decade I covered county school board meetings and reported on academics and extracurricular activities at thirteen public schools – three high schools, two middle schools, three elementary schools and five small K-8 schools. During those years, I investigated a number of racist incidents at the schools, as well as the discriminatory impact of school policies and practices on African American students.
My two grown children graduated from those public schools where half of the students were African Americans. As a parent of a child with a learning disability, I spent years advocating for academic accommodations for him and others like him. My son struggled academically in the early grades. Fortunately his mother was a school teacher in a nearby urban school district that had much stronger exceptional program services and was encouraged to get a private medical evaluation of our son at one of the premier child development evaluation centers in the country. Thanks to our ability to pay for a private psychological evaluation, my son was first student in our county to obtain an Individual Education Plan for attention deficit disorder (ADD). But we still had yearly battles with teachers and administrators to have his accommodations carried out. We learned how much persistent parental advocacy is worth to your child, as he eventually received his undergraduate and graduate degrees and went on to become a published writer and work at a major public university in New York.
My two grandchildren attended the same public schools system that now has also have a significant number of LatinX students. My youngest granddaughter, now in the seventh grade, just completed six years in a dual language immersion program.
After Dee and I married, I became an attorney specializing in civil rights, disability discrimination, mental health, employment, and criminal defense representing indigent and minority clients. My last legal job was as the Special Attorney for Employment and Public Accommodations for the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities. Throughout my legal career, I represented teachers, librarians and even an assistant principal on employment matters and represented parents and students with disabilities in IEP hearings and appeals, college students seeking reasonable accommodations, and class action cases against K-12 public school systems, college and universities for their failure to accommodate students with disabilities. I also represented employees on sexual harassment and race, sex, and age discrimination.
Before going to law school, I served two years as an education lobbyist and researcher at the North Carolina state capital in Raleigh, working on behalf of children with disabilities and children from minority and low-income families. I conducted research that demonstrated low-wealth counties did not have enough money to provide an equal education for their children, despite the fact that they taxed their residents at a higher than average rate. This and similar research eventually led to the landmark 1997 Supreme Court ruling that the state had a constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a sound basic education that includes competent and well-trained teachers and principals, as well as equitable access to sufficient resources.