In a letter Monday to parents of Cameron Park Elementary School students, Orange County Schools interim superintendent Randy Bridges said that an “independent review” by “outside investigators” of allegations made by a parent in February determined that neither the school’s faculty nor staff members “acted in any discriminatory or harassing manner toward the parent or her child.”
Though the letter does not mention the parent by name, it appears to reference a complaint made by Krystal Little and first reported by the INDY in April.
Little’s complaint, which alleged that she had been harassed by a custodian but that school administrators had failed to follow-up on her charges, had initially been substantiated by Seth Stephens, OCS’s chief communications officer, who investigated the matter. Little, Stephens wrote in a report, “has not been engaged with as a parent by the school’s administration in a fashion, manner, or form similar to her white parent counterparts.”
But the school board was not satisfied with Stephens’s report—or the ones that followed.
In April, then-superintendent Todd Wirt asked the school district’s human resources chief to reinvestigate the Cameron Park affair. In May, the INDY reported last month, OCS hired Bryan Martin, most recently the senior director for employee relations for the Wake County Public School System, to review the Little case, and paid him $5,000.
Then, on June 10, the school board hired the law firm Brooks Pierce to “conduct a comprehensive independent review of a parent’s complaint at Cameron Park,” chairman Will Atherton told the INDY in an email—a contract worth up to $25,000. On August 26, the school board authorized paying Brooks Pierce another $25,000.
In September, the board voted to settle two federal complaints Stephens had filed with the federal government—one filed with the U.S. Department of Education in April alleging retaliation, and one that he’d filed months before that with the EEOC—for about $41,000. In May, the school board removed Stephens’s mother, Brenda Stephens, as its chair two months before her term was set to expire, in part because she was thought to have a conflict of interest.
Little removed her child from the school and the district in March.
“While the review did not substantiate allegations of discrimination, harassment, or bullying,” Bridges wrote, “it did identify areas for growth and improvement, and we will follow up with information regarding opportunities for professional development and training.”
On Wednesday, the OCS Board of Education finalized the selection of its new superintendent, Monique Felder, who for the last three years has been the chief academic officer for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee. She’ll start on November 1.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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