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3 School Employees, 1 Student Suing Fairfax Co. Schools, Principal for Discrimination

The new Bailey's upper Elementary School on Leesburg Pike. (Photo: News-Press)
The new Bailey’s upper Elementary School on Leesburg Pike. (Photo: News-Press)

Three employees and one student at Fairfax County Public Schools have filed a lawsuit against the school system and Bailey’s Elementary School Principal Marie Lemmon, alleging ten counts of discrimination. A civil complaint filed last month on Sept. 25 by the Spiggle Law Firm on behalf of the plaintiffs in this case claims that Lemmon discriminated against the plaintiffs on the basis of sex, disability, religion and race.

Krista Goelz, the plaintiffs’ attorney in this case, told the News-Press that she and the plaintiffs “just want to see justice done.”

The complaint claims that Rachel Charlton, a former assistant principal at Bailey’s who’s currently an assistant principal at Camelot Elementary School in Annandale, was told by Lemmon that “she would not be able to progress in her career with her responsibilities as a wife and mother” on numerous occasions starting with an interaction the two had at a social function for Fairfax County Public Schools administrators in 2011.

At that function, Lemmon told Charlton that “she should wait until she was a principal to become pregnant or have children,” the complaint claims.

Charlton, who was appointed as an assistant principal at Bailey’s in 2009, learned that she was pregnant in October 2012. On Nov. 9, 2012, Lemmon was appointed principal of Bailey’s. When she first came to Bailey’s and before she learned that Charlton was expecting, Lemmon stated that her goal was to assist Charlton in becoming a principal before the 2013-2014 school year.

But when Lemmon learned of Charlton’s pregnancy in December 2012 she began excluding Charlton from meetings with the other assistant principals, taking away her work responsibilities and humiliating her in front of other staff at Bailey’s, according to the complaint.

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Bailye’s Elementary School principal Marie Lemmon. (Photo: FCPS)

According to the complaint, Lemmon made disparaging comments about breastfeeding during a conversation about children. The complaint claims that Lemmon indicated that breastfeeding was unnecessary because, she said, “we do not live in a third world country like Africa.” The complaint also alleges that Lemmon berated Charlton for the self-care she required and employed because of disabilities resulting from her pregnancy.

It also claims that Lemmon made disparaging remarks about Charlton’s religion and excluded Charlton from work functions that would have promoted her career because of her religion. Charlton is Jewish.

The complaint also claims that Lemmon and Fairfax County Public Schools retaliated against Charlton after she reported Lemmon’s alleged behavior to Fairfax County Public School’s human resources department.

According to the complaint, Yolanda Calhoun and Shyrone Stith, a former math resources teacher and a former instructional assistant at Bailey’s, respectively, claim that they were denied employment benefits because they are African-American.

Calhoun, now a sixth grade teacher at Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston, was “unilaterally removed” from her position as a math resources teacher and replaced with a Caucasian teacher who was less qualified, the complaint says. It also says that Stith was denied a promotion and his application for a new teaching position because of his race.

According to court records, Lemmon made multiple comments stating that Caucasian people make better teachers and instructed her assistant principals, including Charlton, only to hire “pretty, young, blue-eyed blondes.”

Also, after Stith secured a position at a Cameron Elementary School in Alexandria – a school with a predominately African-American population – Lemmon told Stith ‘See, that school is a good fit for you,” and “that is your demographic, those are your kids.”

The complaint also claims that J.C. Calhoun, Yolanda’s stepdaughter and a former Bailey’s student, was removed from the school on the basis of race. The basis of the claim is that two Caucasian students at Bailey’s who had parents on the school’s staff were allowed to remain at the school after their parents were no longer employed at the school.

The defendants in the case, Fairfax County Public Schools and Lemmon, have until Oct. 27 to answer a summons informing them of the lawsuit. Fairfax County Public Schools declined to comment to the News-Press on the lawsuit.