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A former school officer in Knox County, Tennessee has filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the district and the city, charging that he was wrongfully terminated because his supervisor took offense to his marriage to a Black woman, writes USA Today.

The lawsuit claims that John Smelser, who is White, was fired in May 2015 from a school in Knoxville after Gus Paidousis, chief of school security, learned that Smelser was married to a Black woman with whom he has two children, the report says.

From USA Today:

The lawsuit seeks $250,000 in compensatory damages and a “mandatory order requiring defendants to abide by the laws that prohibit race discrimination and ordering the appropriate employees involved in the acts of race discrimination to receive appropriate training.”


In April 2015, Smelser was charged with domestic assault in connection with an incident at his home involving his stepdaughter’s boyfriend, the lawsuit stated. Smelser was off duty but placed on paid leave from his job pending the outcome of the case. On May 18, 2015, the charge was dropped. But when Smelser returned to work, the lawsuit alleged Paidousis “refused to speak to” him. The next day, Smelser received a letter dated May 15, 2015, from the school superintendent that stated, “It has been determined that your services are no longer needed.” It did not list a reason. The envelope bore a May 18, 2015, postmark.


“Thereafter, the plaintiff was advised by several supervising officers employed by the defendants that Chief Paidousis had admitted to them that the reason (Smelser) was terminated was because he had a black wife and his children were black,” the lawsuit stated. “(Smelser) alleges that he was terminated due to being married to an African-American and that he had ‘black’ children. The failure to provide a reason by the defendants for (Smelser’s) termination is a cover-up for blatant race discrimination.”

Knox County Schools spokeswoman Melissa Tindell has yet to comment.



Tennessee School Cop Claims He Was Fired For Having A Black Wife  was originally published on