Richmond County school board denies discriminating against teacher

Court filings deny any discrimination

 

The Richmond County Board of Education said officials did not discriminate against a white teacher or create a hostile working environment while she was working at Tobacco Road Ele­men­tary School, according to court documents filed in response to the teacher’s June 26 lawsuit.

Former teacher Ashley Tyson alleges her teaching mentor repeatedly called her “little white girl” and “cracker” around students and faculty members. The board said her claims are false.

The school board asked the U.S. District Court to strike portions of the lawsuit in court documents filed Aug. 23. The board denies any allegations of racial discrimination and said Tyson made errors in filing her complaint with the court.

Tyson says the harassment took place during the 2008-09 school year, her first year of teaching third grade at Tobacco Road. She resigned May 27, 2009.

In her lawsuit, 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 lawsuit. When Tyson reported the incident to Principal Geoclyn Williams, “Williams merely responded that Ms. Tyson needed to solve her own problems,” Tyson claims.

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

The lawsuit says 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.”

Tyson said that she reported the harassment to her principal and school board Human Resources Director Norman Hill several times but that no corrective action was taken. She filed an incident report with the board and the Department of Public Safety and Security after Void allegedly slammed Tyson into a wall and called her the devil in front of several students.

Before filing the lawsuit, Tyson received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Em­­ploy­­ment Opportunity Com­mis­sion, a federal agency that enforces and investigates discrimination complaints. Attorneys for the school board acknowledged the letter but said in their response that the EEOC “made no finding of discrimination or retaliation or harassment against the Board.”

School board attorneys Pete Fletcher and Troy A. Lan­ier took issue with Ty­son’s demand letter, which was written by an attorney before the lawsuit was filed on her behalf. It does not set forth Tyson’s claims in numbered paragraphs and the paragraphs are not limited to individual circumstances, the attorneys state.

The demand letter also does not comply with the Fed­e­ral Rules of Civil Proce­dure because it doesn’t have allegations that are simple, concise and direct, according to the board’s filing, they said.

Documents indicate Tyson will represent herself if the case goes to trial.

Former Richmond County teacher sues school system over racial discrimination

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