Updated March 21 at 7:52 p.m.

Everett’s school superintendent and her deputy seek damages against the mayor and school committee members claiming “blatant and overt acts of discrimination and retaliation.”

Superintendent Priya Tahiliani and Kim Tsai, her deputy, filed a lawsuit against Mayor Carlo DeMaria in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Tuesday, accusing him of racism, retaliatory attacks and interfering with their work as they attempted to diversify the school district’s leadership. The civil complaint also lists the city of Everett and Everett’s school committee as defendants.

The complaint says once Tahiliani and Tsai, both women of color, began to hire non-white applicants in a school district where “100%” of district-level jobs had been white, the mayor and school committee members subjected Tahiliani and Tsai to “demeaning and racist comments” and “discriminatory and retaliatory attacks.”

“Their main offense?” the complaint says, “Being women of color who refused to maintain a ‘Whites only’ hiring policy for district level jobs.”

In Everett’s school district, more than 80% of students are of color, but the teaching staff is nearly 90% white. Tahiliani and Tsai are the first people of color to head Everett’s school district.

A spokesperson for the mayor, Erin Deveney, sent GBH News a statement Tuesday night.

“Mayor DeMaria and the City vigorously deny Ms. Tahiliani’s and Ms. Tsai’s allegations,” she wrote. “The credible facts of the matter demonstrate that Ms. Tahiliani and Ms. Tsai were never subjected to discrimination of any kind by the City and the Mayor and there is simply no evidence to the contrary.”

Tahiliani referred questions to her lawyer, who didn’t respond to GBH News by the time of publishing.

The complaint alleges that during DeMaria’s reelection campaign in 2021, the mayor told members of the school committee and school employees that they needed to “get [Tahiliani] out” and threatened staff to “remember what team [they] are on.”

According to the complaint, “the institutional racism championed by Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria and his cronies for the School Committee was and still is palpable.”

Despite generally positive appraisals for her work and the award of a statewide prize in 2022 from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, on March 6 superintendent Tahiliani was denied a contract renewal in a vote by the school committee that includes the mayor. The mayor did not publicly explain his opposition to Tahiliani.

Days after that vote, Everett high school students walked out of school and protested in front of City Hall. Tahiliani’s current contract ends in March 2024.

Both Tahiliani and Tsai had filed separate complaints in 2022 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a necessary legal step before advancing to court. After Tahiliani filed her complaint in January, surveillance cameras were found in the ceiling of her office, and the complaint says, were removed by the FBI and are under investigation.

The city is also the focus of an ongoing discrimination investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

This story was updated to include comment from Mayor DeMaria.