School District Denies Racial Discrimination

AP, Charlotte Observer, charlotte.com, Jul. 30

CHARLESTON—The Charleston County school district says a former teacher suing the district for discrimination was told his race and gender could pose problems at a mostly black school.

Former Brentwood Middle teacher John Smith sued the district, Principal Wanda Marshall and Associate Superintendent Darrell Johnson after he was dismissed after one year on the job.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, the school district admitted Marshall told Smith before he was hired that “in the eyes of the students, he could have two strikes against him, because he was a white male.”

But the district denied Smith’s other claims of discrimination.

In a letter dated April 13, Marshall told Smith he could not reapply for a job at Brentwood, though he “successfully completed” his first year of teaching.

Smith said a later letter from Johnson called his year unsuccessful after Smith went public with his intent to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As a first-year teacher, Smith had no right to appeal his dismissal, so the Charleston County School Board refused to hear his case. He filed the federal lawsuit June 18.

Smith says he was “rendered totally ineffective in managing and instructing his classes” because Marshall “would not allow students to be disciplined for racial slurs or other disruptive behavior towards white teachers.”

After two years as Brentwood’s principal, Marshall is being replaced by state-paid principal specialist Edwin Jones. Marshall is being transferred to West Ashley High as an assistant principal.

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