Originally created 11/04/99

School system charged with racism



WATKINSVILLE, Ga. -- An Oconee County High School teacher has filed a federal complaint alleging that black teachers in the school system are discriminated against and subjected to hostile treatment.

Clarence Harris, who teaches world history and advanced-placement U.S. history, said he filed the complaint recently with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Mr. Harris has voiced concerns at recent Oconee County Board of Education meetings that school system employees are disproportionately white and that the system creates a "hostile environment" for minority teachers.

The school board has met with its attorney, Terrell Benton, concerning the allegations.

School officials are in the process of planning a meeting with the Office of Civil Rights in Atlanta, according to Doug Eza, director of operations for the school system.

Chuck Horton, school board chairman, declined to comment on the allegations.

All schools receiving federal funding are subject to OCR jurisdiction, and the office will investigate the Oconee County school system to determine whether Mr. Harris' allegations have merit, Mr. Eza said. If the Office of Civil Rights determines there is some validity to the complaint, it could send in officials to help the system resolve any discriminatory practices. The possibility of a loss of federal funding also exists, according to Mr. Eza.

Four years ago, the Oconee County school system was the subject of a complaint filed with the OCR in which it was alleged that the system was not hiring minority educators and was targeting minority students for disciplinary action more frequently than white students.