UPDATE: Sconiers terminated as Denfeld principal, federal lawsuit filed alleging retaliation and discrimination

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UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. — The now former principal of Denfeld High School along with her attorneys announced a federal lawsuit against the Duluth School District on Monday.

The district placed Tonya Sconiers on leave earlier this summer amid allegations which were unknown until Monday.

A complaint in federal court shows six counts have been filed against the school district, as well district leaders.

Those counts include two counts regarding freedom of speech, one for race discrimination, one for sex discrimination, one in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act and one for whistle blower retaliation.

The complaint states Sconiers has demanded a jury trial.

Sconiers issued the following statement during the news conference:

“Good morning.

My name is Tonya Sconiers. I am a proud parent of three adult children, who graduated from the Duluth Public Schools. I am a wife of 27 years, and I want to thank my husband Mohammed for being here with me today. I am a proud member of the Duluth community for 22 years and have been an employee of Duluth Public Schools, for the last 19 years, where I have had the honor of serving my school community as Assistant Principal and most recently Principal of Denfeld High School. Denfeld is a magnificent school steeped in strong traditions. During my tenure at Denfeld, I have had the incredible
opportunity to lead the process of building a school community that has become inclusive and responsive to the needs of students. For almost two decades, I have worked alongside dedicated staff, student leaders, parents and community partners to blend school traditions with research-based instructional practices in order to provide a world-class education for all students. Through this complex, challenging, yet joyful work, we have ensured that each student has equitable opportunities to build a foundation that serves as a cornerstone to their bright future. This is the work I love, the work that fuels my passion for education, and the reason I am here today. As Principal, I have been entrusted by the parents and our community to ensure that equitable decision making, financing and hiring, which impact our students, are always made in their best interest. Difficult challenges mean difficult decisions and courageous leadership. Consequently, courageous leaders must often stand up to fight the injustices of the status quo in policies and practices. It saddens me to stand before you today, at odds with the district leadership and school board. It saddens me that the District attempted to silence me by threatening me, then suspending me, and now firing me. It saddens me that the district would rather retaliate and discriminate than listen. I refuse to be silenced. Furthermore, I refuse to let another year, another month or another day go by without holding our education system accountable for fair, just and equitable actions that benefit all students in Duluth Public Schools. I am resolute in pursuing what is right and my commitment to students, staff and this community is unwavering. Thank you.”

KBJR 6 has reached out to Duluth School District leaders and the Duluth School Board, but did not immediately hear back.

You can watch the full news conference below.

You can read the full complaint below, or by clicking here on a mobile device.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.





10:50 a.m. — Denfeld principal Tonya Sconiers who is on leave and her attorneys say they are planning to announce a federal lawsuit against Duluth Public Schools and key leaders Monday morning.

Sconiers was put on leave in August amid allegations which haven’t been made public at this time.

In late August, Superintendent Bill Gronseth announced former Duluth East High School principal Laurie Knapp, who retired in 2016, would serve as Denfeld’s substitute principal.

The law firm representing Sconiers released the following statement:

“We have been investigating legal claims against Duluth Public Schools on behalf of Principal Sconiers since April.”

The document goes on to say, ” The District placed Principal Sconiers on leave more than six weeks after we first informed the district about our investigation.”

The law firm advised Sconiers not to make any public comments. But did say, “If Principal Sconiers is forced to take legal action, the public will hear much more from her and us.”

Check back for a live stream of the conference, which can be found here on a mobile device.

Krystal Frasier

Krystal Frasier

Social Media and Digital Content Manager
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