Former Richmond County teacher sues school system over racial discrimination

Ex-teacher's suit details repeated harrassment

A former third-grade teacher is suing the Richmond County Board of Education for racial discrimination and failure to protect her from racial harassment during the 2008-09 school year, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.


Ashley Tyson, who is white, said her teaching mentor repeatedly called her “little white girl” and “cracker” while around students and teachers, according to the complaint.

Tyson was in her first year as a third-grade teacher at Tobacco Road Elementary School during the 2008-09 school year when the harassment allegedly took place. She resigned May 27, 2009, according to human resources director Norman Hill.

Tyson received a right-to-sue notice March 28 from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces and investigates discrimination complaints.

In her complaint, Tyson said harassment from her teaching mentor, Deborah Void, who is black, continued through the entire school year.

In one instance, Void told Tyson to “shut up, little white girl,” during an October 2008 faculty meeting, according to the complaint. When Tyson reported the incident to Principal Geoclyn Williams, “Williams merely responded that Ms. Tyson needed to solve her own problems,” according to the complaint.

Tyson also accuses Void of frequently telling her that white women “were not good in bed,” that they were “taking black men” and that white women were “trying to take our jobs.”

Void also made race a factor in Tyson’s job assessment, saying “the little white girl can’t teach no black students” and “little white girl can’t control black students,” the complaint states.

Tyson met with Williams to report the harassment again in January 2009, but no one took investigative
or corrective action in response, according to the complaint.

Tyson first alerted human resources in February 2009 by e-mailing Hill and followed up with a meeting later that month. Hill later told Tyson there was nothing he could do, according to the complaint.

The harassment peaked in May 2009 when Void allegedly slammed Tyson into a wall and called her the devil. Several students saw the incident and began crying, while one approached Void and asked her not to hurt her teacher, the complaint stated.

Tyson filed an incident report with the board of education and the Department of Public Safety and Security about the incident and informed the assistant principal, who said there was nothing she could do.

Steven Wolfe, an attorney with Buckley and Klein LLP, who wrote the complaint on Tyson’s behalf, said Tyson experienced racial harassment and a hostile working environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Wolfe offered to settle the case with the school system for $95,000, mutual confidentiality, mutual nondisparagement provisions and a positive letter of reference.

Documents indicate Tyson will represent herself in the proceedings.

Phone messages left for Tyson and Wolfe were not returned.

Read the complaint (pdf format)