Jury Rules In Favor Of Wrestling Coach Who Claimed Discrimination
A former Selma High wrestling coach says he has been vindicated after a jury ruled Tuesday that the Selma Unified School District discriminated against him because of his Palestinian ancestry.Naser Husein — a division wrestling champion as a student at Selma — sued the district in 2008 for wrongful termination and racial discrimination after he was fired as wrestling coach.
On Tuesday, a Fresno County Superior Court civil jury awarded Husein $181,549 for the coaching job he lost.
The award includes $71,549 for lost past and future income and $110,000 for “non-economic loss” including “humiliation and emotional distress.”
“I felt it was racial discrimination, and I proved it in court,” Husein said. “I’m so happy, and I feel vindicated.”
His victory was not complete. The jury did not agree that the district discriminated against Husein in two other jobs he held, as a substitute teacher and a night-school teacher.
This was found to be puzzling by school board member Johnny Smith. He felt Husein should have lost on all counts because he was replaced as coach by a full-time, on-campus employee in Sam Lopez, who teaches special education.
“[The verdict] surprises me,” Smith said. “The state education code says an on-duty teacher has priority for a job over a walk-on. This is disappointing.”
Husein, 36, was born and raised in Selma and was a two-time Central Section Sierra-Sequoia Division wrestling champion for Selma High, where he graduated in 1992.
Later, he was a volunteer and assistant wrestling coach at the school before taking over the program in 2001.
His team won the Central Section Division II championship twice before he was fired in 2008.
“We were second in the state in ’08 and ’09, and I get fired? It made no sense,” Husein said. “I felt someone stabbed me in the back.
“It was very hurtful.”
Husein’s attorney, Matthew Alger, told the jury the high school’s athletic director called Husein a “crazy Arab” and questioned his ability to speak English.
After Husein lost the coaching job, he taught English as a second language for Selma Adult School.
Currently, he works as an administrative assistant at Tioga Middle School.