An Athens teacher has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Clarke County School District has failed to enforce a policy protecting teachers from violence.
Coile Middle School Spanish teacher Marta Dean “contends that the CCSD has refused to take disciplinary action against disruptive African American students in order to manipulate discipline statistics and artificially improve school climate ratings,” according to her attorney, Michael C. Daniel. “The manipulated ratings create a false perception that schools are safe and discipline is effective.”
The lawsuit alleges that Superintendent Philip Lanoue implemented a policy of limiting discipline against African American students in order to protect the district’s federal funding, which could be restricted if CCSD were found to disproportionately discipline African American students.
Dean says she has been the subject of profane taunts, students have thrown objects at her and slapped her on the back of the head with no consequences, and bullying and fighting plague the school. When she brought it to the administration’s attention, she was given a notice of termination, she says.
The lawsuit, filed Mar. 7, seeks to force the Board of Education to hold a hearing on Dean’s claims and hire an outside investigator to look into charges that the district is manipulating discipline statistics.
CCSD Director of Public Relations and Communications Anisa Sullivan responded: “It is very unfortunate that a teacher would bring a personnel matter to local media. However, due to that action taking place, we will respond that shortly after Ms. Dean was hired by the school district, there were severe and ongoing personnel concerns, as well as multiple parent complaints, regarding her professionalism, interactions with students and instructional practices. We are unable to get into the specifics regarding the concerns. Coile Middle School, under the leadership of Principal Dwight Manzy, has set a culture of high expectations and high achievement for all students.
“Regarding disproportionality, it is a concern taken seriously at the district, state and federal levels and the district will continue doing its part to ensure that no subgroups of students are disproportionally [sic] disciplined for similar offenses as compared to other subgroups of students.
“It is a core belief of our district that we will continue to work with school communities, including parents as partners, to promote positive school cultures that help all students achieve.”
As UGA journalism professor Barry Hollander noted on his blog, it’s rather hypocritical for the district to say it’s unfortunate that a teacher is airing a personnel matter publicly, then go on to attack that teacher’s professionalism. Dean’s allegations match up with what we’ve heard from many other teachers, including those whose concerns were published in the Mar. 2 Flagpole and Brent Andrews’ Comment in this issue. Given the widespread community concerns, it shouldn’t take a lawsuit for the school board to hire an independent investigator to look into school discipline and security. Unfortunately, it looks like the board has closed ranks around Lanoue, and with only one contested school-board race out of four, voters can’t force the issue.
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