Dean files lawsuit against school system

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Editor's note: In the print version of this story, it reads Williams' demand from the board of education is $10 million. This information came directly from the U.S. District Court docket for Williams' lawsuit. Williams' attorney, Romallus O. Murphy, says this is incorrect. Williams is seeking undisclosed damages in excess of $10,000.

A Brunswick County Schools employee has sued the Brunswick County Board of Education, claiming her civil rights were violated.

Lorene Williams, dean of students at Shallotte Middle School, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Aug. 11, and is seeking damages in excess of $10,000.

Williams filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Office and received a Right to Sue notification May 9, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states the board of education discriminated against Williams “on account of her disability and retaliated against [Williams] for asserting her rights associated with her disability claim.”

Williams is a type 2 diabetic with complications, the lawsuit states. Williams alleges in her lawsuit around June 4, 2007, she requested a medical leave of absence from June 2007 until December 2007, citing serious health conditions. Williams had accumulated sufficient leave time to cover the leave, the lawsuit states.

In the lawsuit, Williams alleges she was transferred to her current position of dean of students at Shallotte Middle School because, “The Superintendent advised [Williams] that she could not hold her position open for six months nor could she have someone else perform her duties for that period of time.”

Williams further alleges she was treated “as if she was disabled and unable to perform the essential functions of her job.”

“[Williams] endured great mental suffering and continues to suffer extreme mental anguish and distress and is otherwise adversely affected as a result of the reckless and callous indifference of defendant to [Williams’] rights and defendant’s intentional denial of [Williams’] employment rights,” the lawsuit states.

Williams is seeking a jury trial and “compensatory damages for pecuniary losses, emotional pain, and mental anguish.”

Williams further seeks to “permanently enjoin the defendant from engaging in said unlawful practices, policies, customs, and usages set forth herein and continuing any and all other practices shown to be in violation of applicable law.”

Kathleen Tanner, the board of education’s attorney, filed an extension with the court and has until Sept. 24 to respond to the lawsuit.

At press time Tuesday, Tanner did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Assistant superintendent for human resources Terry Chestnutt said Williams has been employed with Brunswick County Schools since Aug. 15, 1975.

According to the district’s human resource department, Williams was director of exceptional children from May 1985. In July 1996, she was transferred to the position of federal programs director. In July 2005, she returned as the director of exceptional children until December 2005 when she became the director of Pre-K and student services.

In July 2007, she was named dean of students at Shallotte Middle School.