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Friday, October 17, 2014

Bailey's principal sued for discrimination and harassment



Principal Marie Lemmon greets students on the first day of school at the new Bailey's Upper Elementary School.

The complaints about Bailey’s Elementary School Principal Marie Lemmon outlined in a lawsuit charging her with discrimination and harassment are similar to the experiences of other current and former employees.

“I can’t attest to the facts in the lawsuit, but it follows a pattern that many people experienced,” a former Bailey’s employee told the Annandale Blog. Bailey’s is the largest elementary school in Fairfax County and is the only school where a single principal presides over two separate school buildings.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 25 by former employees in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, alleges Lemmon violated federal civil rights and anti-discrimination laws.

Most of the 31-page lawsuit deals with the experiences of Rachel Charlton, a former assistant principal at Bailey’s. Charlton says Lemmon urged the assistant principals to only hire “pretty young blondes” who did not have families and referred to teachers that didn’t fit into that category as the “geek squad.”

Charlton’s problems with Lemmon started in 2012 when she became pregnant with her first child. The suit alleges that Lemmon told Charlton to wait until she became a principal before having children. Following her pregnancy announcement, Lemmon began excluding Charlton from critical meetings with the two other assistant principals, who are single and without children.

During Charlton’s difficult pregnancy, the suit says, “Lemmon berated Rachel in front of another teacher for eating a small piece of cheese.” When Charlton returned from maternity leave, she learned most of her responsibilities were transferred to the other assistant principals, and Lemmon refused to give her a recommendation despite a strong professional record.  

After Charleton filed a complaint with the FCPS Department of Human Resources, she alleges Lemmon retaliated by not informing her about important meetings and continuing the harassment.  
 
The lawsuit says “Lemmon was often discriminatory towards students and teachers who identified with any religion other than Christianity.” For example, a staff outing was scheduled on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and Lemmon criticized a parent who had concerns about pork being served in the cafeteria.

Another plaintiff, Yolanda Calhoun, an African American with a doctorate degree in education, charges Lemmon with racial discrimination. According to the suit, Lemmon told Calhoun her position as a Title I math resource teacher was being eliminated, then replaced her with a young, blue-eyed blond Caucasian woman who was significantly less qualified.

The other plaintiffs are J.C. Calhoun, a former student at Bailey’s, and Shyrone Stith, a former instructional assistant and teacher.

J.C., Yolanda Calhoun’s stepchild, had been accepted into Bailey’s magnet program. But after Yolanda was forced out, the suit says Lemmon “intentionally and in bad faith removed J.C.’s magnet application from her student file in order to justify removing J.C. from the school.”  Meanwhile, two other teachers who had left Bailey’s were allowed to keep their Caucasian children in the magnet program.

According to the lawsuit, Lemmon “repeatedly discriminated against children of color,” and imposed more severe disciplinary measures on them.

Stith, an African American who worked at Bailey’s as an instructional assistant, claims he was turned down for a promotion in favor of a less-qualified, young blond woman.

Commenters on the Annandale Blog and other online forums, including DC Urban Moms and Dads, have made similar complaints about Lemmon during her previous tenure as principal of Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School, as well as at Bailey’s.

Teachers at Mt. Vernon Woods “couldn’t believe how lucky they were when they heard she was leaving,” said a former employee, who noted that about 30 employees left Baileys during 2012-13, Lemmon’s first year at the school.

According to a former employee, “she ran the school like a dictator,” and staff members at Baileys felt too intimidated to speak up and question anything for fear of retaliation.

Some of the other complaints cited by the former employee: Lemmon eliminated all part-time positions so employees either had to work full time or quit. She challenged people who applied for medical leave. She scrapped a successful Spanish literacy program by claiming she couldn’t find a qualified instructor, when in fact, there were lots of good candidates.  

Another former teacher who says Lemmon forced her out and replaced her with someone much younger and much less-qualified, calls the principal a “bulldog” who “scared teachers with her bullying tactics.”

According to this teacher, Lemmon expected teachers to get married and have children during the summer. “She stood up in staff meetings and said, if you’re going to have a baby, don’t do it on my time.”  

Update posted Oct. 30: A lawyer representing Fairfax County Public Schools filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit against Lemmon, the Washington Post reported Oct. 29. The motion says the  suit should have been filed against the school board, rather than FCPS. It also says the suit should have been split among the plaintiffs because the claims “involve differing issues of law and facts.” 

21 comments:

  1. Another example that Mason District needs new leadership/ direction What was the vetting process for hiring a new principal?

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    1. um... our elected leaders (Penny, Sandy) have nothing, whatsoever, to do with selecting principals for the local elementary schools. Nor should they.

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    2. the school board and the sup approves any principal hires/transfers.

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  2. Since when did the Annandale Blog become Judge, Jury and Executioner? Very biased account of an obviously contentious/contested matter on which you've only quoted one side of the argument.

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    1. Um, the piece is about the lawsuit. Do you expect the Annandale Blog to also serve as Court Reporter---for a case that was only just filed?

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  3. The principal is a transfer. Transfer usually means the new school is getting another school's problem (not always, but lots of times this is the case). This is exactly what happen at Jeb Stuart with their principal.
    The county doesn't fire they just transfer problem employees.

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  4. the vetting process for all FCPS admin is a joke. Panels designed so the members cant reveal their selections to one another, which gives the asst sup the power to select whoever they want. they do not even have to abide by the panels selection.....Since they do not know who each other selected.

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  5. "Lemmon eliminated all part-time positions so employees either had to work full time or quit" Yes, that's what happens when a manager changes someone's work hours - as they should in order to meet the needs of their "customers". When did that in and of itself become illegal?

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    1. The issue with FT vs PT teachers/employees is that many of the PT teachers are long-term, amazing, high-performing people who can't, for whatever reason, work FT. So if you change the term of employment, you lose a quality employee and kids lose in the end. A good principal will not let the tail wag the dog by sticking to all very rigid FT roles, but will work hard to tailor the terms of the job to great employees/teachers. It's not illegal, but it may be found to be discriminatory if there was no need for it -- if enough folks were employed PT to cover the school's needs. In the short time we were at Bailey's (before Lemmon's time) we saw many PT teachers who were very high-performing employees.

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    2. "Illegal"? It's a civil suit, not a criminal charge.

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  6. Annandale Blog is not playing judge/jury. It is merely expressing the experiences and opinions of those aware of a incomprehensible situation. That's called freedom of speech and democracy. It's doubtful that anyone would file a lawsuit without expeiencing some pain or feeling defeated by those that should have protected them -- FCPS. The need to bring justice to an intollerable situation should not be condemned, it should be celebrated, recognized and rectified. Let's face it. If the teachers and administrator is this lawsuit, and those lawsuits prior to this one against Marie Lemmon, were supported or even listened to by FCPS, this recent federal lawsuit may not have been filed. Wake up FCPS. You've been recognized as a stellar school system. Prove it. And stop protecting and hiring those incompetent principals that don't deserve thier positions.

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  7. According to this teacher, Lemmon expected teachers to get married and have children during the summer. “She stood up in staff meetings and said, if you’re going to have a baby, don’t do it on my time.”

    WTF!

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    1. LOL - perhaps if she made those comments at the front door the need for a second school would not have been needed and there would be less strollers streaming into the school.

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  8. If Ellie wants to get this right, she needs to change the headline from "Bailey's principal charged with..." to "Bailey's principal sued for...." Government entities "charge" individuals criminally, whereas private plaintiffs like Ms. Charlton merely sue others civilly in state or federal court. It makes Ellie either look like she's in over her head, or trying to inflame the situation, to use a term like "charged" that is not appropriate to the circumstances.

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    1. I changed the headline. However, the use of the word "charged" referred to the broader meaning of accusing someone of wrongdoing.

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  9. Lemmon was sued civilly by private plaintiffs in district court. She hasn't been "charged" with anything. Government prosecutors, not private individuals, bring "charges." The headline of this blog post is misleading.

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  10. I am quite surprised Ms. Lemmon has not been placed on administrative leave given the severity of the charges until this matter is settled. There is more to this than just a he said/she said as some of the accusations I assume can be proven by facts and witness testimony. It will be interesting to see how this plays out but would not be surprised if the old saying "where there's smoke there's fire" proves true.

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  11. Has the FCPS board made any comment/statement regarding Ms. Lemmon's status in connection with this issue? In light of the the information contained in the lawsuit I don't see how they could not make a statement.

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  12. Fairfax County Public Schools issued the following statement: “FCPS has a strict anti-discrimination policy and takes all allegations of discrimination very seriously. Regarding this particular lawsuit, FCPS does not comment on pending litigation, especially litigation involving personnel matters.”

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  13. Baileys Yahoo Group can be found at baileysopenforum@yahoogroups.com

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  14. Why are you not approving b posts?

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