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Lawsuit alleges discrimination by former RSS Exceptional Children Department heads

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – A lawsuit filed Dec. 30 alleges racial discrimination by former Rowan-Salisbury Schools Exceptional Children Director Candace Lindstrom and former Program Director Karen Sylvester. The school district is also named as a defendant.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Exceptional Behavior Support Specialist Regina Clark-Parker, alleges she “started to notice a difference in practices and treatment toward African-American staff with the EC Department,” by Sylvester and reinforced by Lindstrom against Clark-Parker and other African-American colleagues when compared to white colleagues.

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education discussed the lawsuit in closed session on Monday evening, but officials declined or did not return requests for comment on the matter Tuesday.

Allegations in the suit include that Lindstrom only disciplined Clark-Parker after a complaint from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The filing alleges the complaint by N.C. DPI, which the Post was unable to obtain by press time on Tuesday, was “against the defendant in regards to the inability to provide accommodations and proper exceptional institution to a student in compliance with federal and state laws.”

The lawsuit claims Clark-Parker was the only non-white staff member on the student’s treatment team and “the EC Director did not institute any policies of disciplinary actions toward white staff members, but made direct disciplinary actions with knowledge that white staff members were in direct violation of the very issues identified toward the Plaintiff and other African-American staff within the EC Department.”

Other allegations in the lawsuit include:

  • Lindstrom did not institute any policies of disciplinary actions toward white staff members but made direct disciplinary actions with knowledge that white staff members were in direct violation of issues directed toward Clark-Parker and other African-American staff within the Exceptional Children Department
  • Clark-Parker was subjected to isolated practices not instituted to white staff, including the requirement to be subject to additional sign-in and check-in procedures to schools she was required to service within the district.
  • The exceptional children director denied Clark-Parker an in-person evaluation.
  • The exceptional children director filed an evaluation in the N.C. DPI portal without review and an in-person meeting with Clark-Parker.
  • The exceptional children director submitted evaluations by having other staff sign off on Clark-Parker’s evaluation.
  • The exceptional children director discussed private personnel discipline actions against Parker-Clark to white peers.
  • The exceptional children director assigned a white peer to follow Parker-Clark while she reported to assigned schools.
  • Parker-Clark was approached by white peers more than once with information from her personnel file, which she said was disclosed by Lindstrom and Sylvester.
  • The lawsuit also claims Parker-Clark and other African-American staff in the department reported the behavior to the district.

Lindstrom, who was exceptional ehildren director from July 2017 to August 2019, and Sylvester, who was exceptional children program director from October 2017 to July 2019, are no longer listed on the RSS website. Kathy Sanborn is interim director of the department.

Clark-Parker is seeking damages and punitive damages in excess of $25,000 each as well as recovery of her costs from the defendants.

 

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