“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – MLK
In 2008, when Kim Morris, a school security monitor, approached me for assistance in drafting a letter of complaint against a school principal she believed was harassing her, I did not hesitate to help.
Kim struggled with writing her story and needed assistance with putting her words onto paper. I understood her plea and felt her despair and sense of helplessness. I knew I couldn’t stand by and not lend a helping hand. My parents instilled in me the values of truth, justice, helping and caring for others, and making a positive difference in people’s lives—values, that as an educator, we aspire to instill in our students.
Days after assisting Kim, I was approached by that same principal about my involvement in the matter. Having no direct knowledge of the alleged incident, I maintained that I merely chose to help her fill out the forms and tell her side of the story and could not speak to the facts of the allegation.
However, soon after, a series of spiteful events targeting me ensued, all malicious and without merit, and ultimately resulted in my involuntary transfer to another school—all this for lending a helping hand to someone who felt voiceless by her inability to fill out a form. At that moment, I knew I could not stand idly by—what happened to me could happen to anyone—and I took action.
I filed a claim with the Florida Public Employee Relations Commission for unfair labor practices as well as a civil suit. This legal battle lasted seven years, during which I pressed on with my career, rising through the ranks, eventually becoming an Assistant Principal at Miami Killian Senior High School.
Ultimately the Florida Supreme Court unanimously decided in my favor, thereby defining the applied standard of retaliation for unfair labor practice claims in the state of Florida—now known as the “Koren Principle.” My unwavering pursuit of justice has helped pave the way for many others to be protected under Florida law.
I share this story because I believe it demonstrates my commitment to ensuring ALL employees are treated fairly and impartially. I helped Kim Morris, fully knowing that my involvement could have led to negative repercussions on my professional career. Nevertheless, I knew it was the right thing to do, both for her and for myself. If I had to do it again, I would do so in a heartbeat. I saw an injustice and knew I had to right a wrong.
All School Board employees, regardless of their rank and file, are entitled to fair and impartial treatment under the law. Moreover, all employees are entitled to due process, free of retaliation, when they feel they have been aggrieved. By ensuring due process is followed with fidelity, we, as a school district and a community, are better for it.
As your next School Board Member, I vow to always follow my moral compass and speak up against injustice. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”