A lawsuit filed by two Richmond County school principals who contended the school system demoted them because they are black was rejected by a federal appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, affirmed a federal district court ruling dismissing the 2009 claim Tuesday.
Hartley Gibbons Jr. was the principal of Glenn Hills Middle School, and Rickey A. Lumpkin was the principal of Tubman Middle School until May 2007. Their replacements also were black men, the 11th Circuit stated, and neither Gibbons nor Lumpkin submitted evidence that the decision to replace them “was a pretextual device specifically designed to disguise an act of discrimination.”
The Richmond County school board, however, did show legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons to demote and deny promotions to Gibbons and Lumpkin, the federal district court ruled, and the 11th Circuit affirmed that.
Gibbons and Lumpkin testified they were treated differently from principals who had school performance and discipline issues, but heir schools, the 11th Circuit stated, were being monitored by the state and were in danger of being closed for repeatedly falling short of federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements.
After May 2007, Gibbons was transferred to an assistant principal’s position at George P. Butler High School, and Lumpkin became an assistant principal at Cross Creek High.
After the 2007-08 school year, Gibbons was appointed as the principal of Terrace Manor Elementary School, and Lumpkin was named the principal of Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School. They are still in those positions.
They contended they were passed over for more prestigious principalships, at Lake Forest Hills and Gracewood elementary schools, in favor of white women.
The court said, however, that at Terrace Manor and Wilkinson Gardens, Gibbons and Lumpkin received the same job titles, work responsibilities and compensation as the principals at Gracewood and Lake Forest Hills. Although there might have been differences in the prestige and resources available at Gracewood and Lake Forest, the court said, those differences do not establish that Gibbons and Lumpkin suffered “a serious and material change in the terms, conditions, or privileges of (their) employment.”