School board wants discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Attorneys for the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education are disputing claims made in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the former principal of Henderson Independent High School.
In a filing in U.S. District Court earlier this month, the school board denies the allegations made by Trisha Hutson-Baptist that the board discriminated against her and the students who attend the school because of their race.
Baptist served as principal of the school for one year, resigning Aug. 29 after being placed on paid suspension July 5.
She claims in her lawsuit the district offered no reason for the disciplinary action and did not advise her of any problems with her job performance.
Baptist alleges she lost her job after pointing out discrimination at Henderson to Rowan-Salisbury School System officials.
In the response to the lawsuit, the board admits Baptist signed a three-year contract, but denies terminating that agreement.
The school board’s attorneys also argue the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction for the case because Baptist “failed to exhaust administrative remedies.”
According to the school board filing, Baptist did not file a Title VII complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before filing her lawsuit with the district court.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the aggravated party must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the time the discrimination allegedly occurred.
Baptist’s lawsuit alleges the district follows a pattern of discriminating against minority students who attend Henderson by providing them with fewer resources and accommodations because of their race.
Baptist also accuses the board of assigning other black students to “inadequate and inferior facilities,” depriving them of a good education.
The school board’s attorneys wrote that claim lacks standing because of its vagueness.
Baptist’s claim does not allege “sufficient factual allegations to establish her standing to bring a school segregation claim,” the school board’s filing states.
The board has “emphatically denied” limiting resources to students attending Henderson solely because of their race.
Baptist is seeking to be reinstated with back pay and the benefits she received before her dismissal. She is also asking the court to award punitive damages for harm to her professional reputation.
The school board’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the case.
The school board is seeking to recover its costs and expenses related to the lawsuit, including attorney’s fees.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.