main banner

Friday, November 7, 2014

Former employees support lawsuit against Bailey's principal

Marie Lemmon (right) conducts a tour of the brand new Bailey's Upper campus in a converted office building before the start of the school year.
Five people who had worked for Fairfax County Public Schools have submitted affidavits this week in support of a lawsuit charging Marie Lemmon, the principal of Bailey’s Elementary School, with violating federal anti-discrimination and civil rights laws.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Sept. 25 on behalf of former assistant principal Rachel Charlton; former math resource teacher Yolanda Calhoun; her child, J.C. Calhoun, a former student; and Shyrone Stith, a former instructional assistant.

A court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21 on motions filed by FCPS to dismiss the case and, if that motion fails, to split the complaint into three separate lawsuits. The judge could choose to dismiss some of the 29 separate counts against Lemmon and the school board but not others. Fairfax County officials have declined to comment publicly on the case.

The suit alleges that Lemmon directed staff to only hire “pretty young blondes who did not have families and would ‘work for’ her.” Charlton had charged that, after she became pregnant, Lemmon excluded her from critical meetings and refused to make any accommodations when Charlton suffered severe complications. When Charlton returned to work, nearly all her responsibilities were taken away and Lemmon refused to approve her request for a transfer.  

Throughout that period Charlton, who is Jewish, says Lemmon gave her a hard time for taking religious leave, while the other two assistant principals were given leave for Christmas shopping without having to make up the time.

Yolanda Calhoun, an African American with a doctorate degree in education, was told her job was being eliminated. After she left, the suit states, Lemmon replaced her with young, blond Caucasian woman who was significantly less qualified. Stith charges he was rejected for a promotion in favor of a less-qualified, young blond woman.

The five people who submitted statements to the court report similar experiences.

Rose Vincent, a 49-year-old Hispanic/American Indian instructional assistant at Bailey’s, said Lemmon discriminated against her “on the basis of race, age, and my association with a person who was disabled.” Vincent also said, “I have been subject to repeated harassment and threats to my employment.”

The statement from former teacher Sharon Baumgartner says Lemmon told staff at a meeting that, if they “are going to get married or have babies, do it on your own time during the summer.” Despite a positive performance history, Baumgartner said Lemmon told her if she didn’t leave voluntarily, Lemmon “would write things in my file which would make it difficult for me to get a job in the future.”

Kathi Newman, a 45-year old former speech pathologist at Bailey’s who is Jewish and has a child with a disability, states that she believes Lemmon “discriminated against me on the basis of my ethnicity, my relationship to a person with disabilities, my age, and my religion.” She said she was replaced with a younger, less-qualified employee.

Michael Penn, an African American who had worked in the FCPS safety and security office, said he and other non-white employees were passed over for promotions in favor of less-qualified Caucasian employees. “I believe that there is a ‘black ceiling’ at FCPS and that racial discrimination is rampant,” he wrote.  

Robin Rubio, who worked as a teacher under Lemmon when Lemmon was principal at Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School, said she felt “discriminated against on the basis of my age and my race.” According to Rubio, Lemmon “was routinely condescending and rude. She was negative and critical and made unreasonable demands.”

“I am speaking out,” Rubio wrote, “so others do not have to endure the same discrimination and harassment that I have had to endure under Marie Lemmon.” 


  1. I strongly urge the complainants in this suit to file formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Education - the information can be found at this link:

    Because FCPS receives federal funds, DoEd has jurisdiction:
    These civil rights laws extend to all state education agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries and museums that receive federal financial assistance from ED. Programs or activities that receive ED funds must provide aids, benefits or services in a nondiscriminatory manner. Such aids, benefits or services may include, but are not limited to, admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, recreation, physical education, athletics, housing and employment.

    By filing these complaints at the federal level, the process will be removed from FCPS and investigated independently. If FCPS has nothing to hide, the complaints will be "unfounded;" if the allegations are found to have merit, they will be investigated by federal officials, not FCPS. This would add a level of transparency to the current proceedings.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Great to have this out of the hands of FCPS.

  2. I do question FCPS handling of this issue. While I don't expect them to comment too much on this matter. I do question why they have not placed Ms. Lemmon on administrative leave until this matter is resolved. Guilt or not, I do question Ms. Lemmon's ability to lead Bailey's until this mater is resolved. I would assume every action and/or decision she makes will be scrutinized and under a microscope. . And then you run the risk of individuals coming out of the wood work. While I hope the allegations/charges are untrue, they are egregious The problem is compounded by the media attention this story has garnered...On local news broadcast, blogs, community emails, etc... If comments above are accurate it is good that this is no out of the hands of FCPS and investigated independently.

  3. If the plaintiffs' lawyer really did sue FCPS instead of the School Board, man, that's a rookie mistake that will tank the case from the outset.

  4. Considering that the great majority of the student body in Baileys is not Caucasian, nor blond nor blue eyed, it's amazing that the staff does not represent this.
    I agree, that it should be taken to De Dept. of Education and make it a federal case. Also, Ms. Lemmon should have be put on administrative leave until the case is resolved. This can only mean that FCPS is going to stand behind a their Principal.
    Another very important detail: The fact that a large majority of parents do not speak English, and are immigrants from all over the world, makes the Principal and FCPS inattentive toward the parents.. If this school was situated in McLean or Great Falls, this would not have happened.

  5. Wow, if this is true it sounds like Ms. Lemmon could use a psychiatric evaluation. Blond, blue-eyed single people with no children is a pretty specific bias.

  6. Where there is smoke there is usually fire. In 2014 the question is why would someone believe that they could make such statements and not be held accountable. If the statements can be verified or corroborated we should all be outraged and disappointed with FCPS and the School Board for not providing leadership for our community and putting an end to this ugly chapter. If the allegations of the public statements are true it should not be that hard to verify. Just interview staff that were present during the meetings. If the allegations are true we need to hold Ms. Lemmon, FCPS and the School Board accountable.(demand resignations and vote for new candidates) If the allegations are not true leave Ms. Lemmon alone.
    A blond hair blue eyed resident.

  7. It is puzzling,why FCPS, has not taken a more proactive approach on this issue other than releasing a statement. Can Ms. Lemmon effectively do her job with this looming, and if proven to be true I am sure parents will be demanding answers particularly why FCPS did not act sooner. I don't know specifics of case other than what has been reported in the news, court docs, etc..., but seems to be more downside for FCPS by their inaction than if they were proactive.

  8. From both of her schools, there were dozens of employees that were treated harshly and unfairly and were either driven out or left. One need only check the high turnover rates at both schools to get a sense of how widespread this was. Many who left were experienced, and had strong credentials. Ms. Lemmon does not have the sensitivity, flexibility or diplomatic skills needed for a principal of a large diverse school. After years of playing hardball with peoples' careers, she is getting a taste of her own medicine.

    1. If this is all true, I agree with you, "she is getting a taste of her own medicine."
      Karma always catches up with people.