Educators cite race in Richmond County schools lawsuit

Two black male educators have jointly sued the Richmond County Board of Education, alleging their job assignments have been based on racial grounds instead of skill and experience.

Hartley Gibbons Jr. and Rickey A. Lumpkin filed suit in U.S. District Court on Oct. 19 seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The defendants have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, which represents only one side of the dispute.

According to the lawsuit against the board and former interim Superintendent James F. Thompson, the issue began at a May 10, 2007, school board meeting when members voted to demote Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Lumpkin.

Mr. Gibbons, according to the lawsuit, has 15 years of experience and was the principal of Glenn Hills Middle School until May 2007. Mr. Lumpkin, with 12 years' experience, was principal of Tubman Middle School until May 2007.

The lawsuit alleges they were given no reason for their transfers to assistant principal positions at Butler High School and Cross Creek High School, respectively.

According to the lawsuit, the men were told that they would be offered the first available principal positions, based on seniority, at elementary schools. But that didn't happen, they alleged.

The principal position at Lake Forrest Hills Elementary opened at the end of the 2007-2008 school year. Mr. Gibbons contends that while he should have been offered the job based on seniority, the job was given to a white woman. Lake Forrest has a high white pupil population with 42 percent, the lawsuit alleges.

It continues that when the principal position opened at Gracewood Elementary School in the spring of 2009, both Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Lumpkin were passed over for a white woman, Sharon McAlevy, while she was in the midst of a sex scandal investigation at her former school.

Ms. McAlevy resigned and was sanctioned by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission this fall. According to the lawsuit, Gracewood Elementary's white pupil population is 40 percent.

Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Lumpkin were reassigned to principal positions at Terrance Manor Elementary and Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School, respectively.

Terrance Manor's student population is 94 percent black, and Wilkinson's student population is 92 percent black, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Gibbons and Mr. Lumpkin claim racial discrimination.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com