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Coach says he was fired because he's white

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A case of reverse race discrimination is now in the hands of a judge after three days of testimony. A former Glen Oaks head football coach claims he was fired because he is white.

Testimony wrapped up around 5:30 Thursday evening. Former Glen Oaks head football coach Gary Burnett was the last person to take the stand.

Burnett told Judge Wilson Fields that the school's principal, Wilbert August Jr., told him in 2004, "White people did not understand the black culture." He was removed as the head coach in November 2005 and as athletic director in January 2006 after an overall 28/24 record.

The East Baton Rouge School Board called five witnesses Thursday. Their second witness, Principal August testified that race did come up in a booster meeting in 2005. The next witness, Herman Brister Jr. who replaced Gary Burnett as the head football coach, took the stand saying race never came up.

"I think that was shocking because August at the end of his cross-examination says, ‘Yes. I said we have black coaches here who can be role models for your kids,'" said Burnett's attorney, Jill Craft.

"People remember different things and obviously Mr. August said he did and Mr. Brister said he did not," said defense attorney Karen Murphy.

There were a number of inconsistencies among the five witnesses who testified.

"One said, ‘I didn't do the investigation.' The other one said, ‘She did the investigation.' And at the end they concluded there was no investigation," explained Craft. 

The investigation Gary Burnett's attorney Jill Craft is referring to is over a letter Burnett sent to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. In that letter, Burnett alleged he was being discriminated against.

However, in the school board's former HR director Elizabeth Swinford's testimony, she said Burnett asked in that letter that his pay be restored and it was not a formal discrimination complaint.

"They looked into it again and formally they looked at that letter, they looked at the complaints, the occurrences that were described by Mr. Burnett and didn't find any red flags," said Murphy.

"I'm absolutely shocked that an employee can walk in with a written complaint and saying that I'm being discriminated against, I'm being subjected to hostile environment and you just had the associate superintendent of this school system say we did nothing," said Craft.

Post trial briefs are due to Judge Fields by April 29th.

The judge will render his decision May 5th at 9 a.m.

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