A former Charleston County teacher has filed a federal lawsuit against administrators at Baptist Hill High School claiming she was bullied by her 10th-grade students because she is a white woman.
Heather Michelle Leamon filed the suit Thursday against Baptist Hill Principal Kayla Goodwine and Assistant Principal Robert Burnsed. The Charleston County School District and Associate Superintendent James Winbush are also named as defendants.
Leamon, who said she suffers from anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder as a result of mistreatment by her students, is seeking a jury trial for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages due to racial and gender discrimination.
The suit stems from issues between August and October of 2012 while Leamon was a 10th-grade biology teacher at Baptist Hill. According to the suit, district and school administrators failed to discipline students who targeted Leamon with sexual and racial taunts. Baptist Hill, located in Hollywood, has a student population that is about 88 percent black.
Leamon, in the suit, alleges that Goodwine and Burnsed "refused" to punish or remove a student from her classroom who had tripped her and called her an expletive, "which encouraged the other students to escalate the racial and sexual harassment of the plaintiff," the suit said.
In a separate instance a student, according to the suit, scrawled graffiti of a curse word on the classroom floor in front of Leamon's desk. On another occasion a student left a note on Leamon's desk that referenced her in a sexual act, the suit said.
The lawsuit claims the school and district have created a cultural hierarchy that places white women at the bottom when it comes to disciplining students.
"The defendants knowingly caused (Leamon) to have to work in an atmosphere of racial and sexual abuse and racial and sexual hostility," the suit said.
After problems persisted, the lawsuit claims that Winbush offered to transfer Leamon to another school but that he never punished or investigated the students Leamon claimed harassed her.
Leamon was transferred in October 2012 to another Charleston County school. She currently works for a local charter school.
Charleston County School District spokesman Jason Sakran declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"Any student and any teacher no matter what their background or race should be respected and treated the same and I don't think that's happening," Leamon's attorney Larry Kobrovsky said Monday. "It's swept under the rug and people pretend it doesn't exist. The result of this is to get a public airing and the public can decide if this is acceptable. We hope it's not."
In 2006 Kobrovsky won a jury verdict of $307,000 in a similar lawsuit for former teacher Elizabeth Kandrac, who claimed she was the victim of racial discrimination and harassment by students at Brentwood Middle School in North Charleston. Kobrovsky is also representing a former Burke High School teacher in a similar lawsuit that's pending in federal court.
Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.
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