GREENCASTLE -- A former varsity baseball coach and social studies teacher has filed a charge of discrimination against the South Putnam School Corp.
Harold Campbell alleges his "constructive discharge and other harassment he endured are based on his race," a complaint filed Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated.
South Putnam School Corp. attorney John Zeiner said he was "surprised" the complaint cited racial discrimination.
The EEOC complaint stated Campbell was the "only African-American individual employed at South Putnam Community School Corp." After three years of employment, Campbell was "blackmailed into signing a letter of resignation" on Feb. 26, 2009, the complaint continued.
The resignation followed a meeting between Campbell and South Putnam High School principal Kieth Puckett and vice principal Dan Bain in which Campbell was presented a one-page list of accusations made against him -- eight in all.
The complaint alleged that during the meeting, Puckett told Campbell he had been "gathering information during the previous nine days" and "he was gathering this information from unnamed sources."
The accusations claimed Campbell attended an event at a private residence where underage students were drinking alcohol and one student was expelled from school; received pictures transmitted via e-mail, telephone or computer owned by a then SPHS student; having inappropriate discussions or text messages with students; discussing a sexual relationship a fellow teacher was having with his adult girlfriend with a student; describing certain members of the girls softball team in a "degrading" manner; suggesting members of the softball team pose in inappropriate ways for a calendar as a fundraiser; discussing personnel issues with a student or students; and allowing students to access his computer.
The complaint alleged "Mr. Puckett threatened Mr. Campbell and stated that if he did not answer the accusations to the school attorney's satisfaction, Mr. Campbell would lose his job, salary and health benefits by the following Monday, March 2."
The former teacher has denied the validity of each accusation in the complaint. It also stated Campbell "was in a state of shock these alleged unnamed sources would levy such damaging, false accusations against him."
In addition, the complaint alleged Campbell was "verbally attacked" by Puckett and SPHS athletic director Matt Griswold regarding two students who violated the school's drug policy and were subsequently expelled from school. However, these students were not under Campbell's supervision and did not violate the drug policy during baseball season, the complaint stated.
Aside from the accusations made against Campbell, the complaint alleged Campbell witnessed various acts of administrative misconduct, "which have gone unpunished." The complaint said Griswold is accused of kissing a student in the commons of SPHS and made sexually harassing comments toward other students and teachers.
The document also alleged Puckett showed favoritism to two top-10 students who were caught cheating on an assignment and appropriately given zeros by the teacher. Puckett is accused of helping the students obtain extra credit to offset the zero scores.
However, Campbell was "verbally blasted" by Puckett regarding alleged insufficient validity of his grading system, the document stated. In a memorandum to Campbell, Puckett wrote, Campbell "must require rigorous work from his students" and "implement a valid grading system."
It is also alleged Campbell was "frequently the target of jokes" told by Puckett in staff meetings.
"Mr. Campbell has never been comfortable with this," the document stated.
The "false allegations" brought against Campbell and more favorable treatment of "similarly situated individuals" are the basis for Campbell's belief the South Putnam School Corp. has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the document stated.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color, as well as national origin, sex and religion. It prohibits employment decisions based on "stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups," the EEOC Web site stated.
Once the employer has been notified a charge has been filed, there are a number of ways it may be handled, according the EEOC Web site. For example, the charge may be assigned for priority investigation if the initial facts appear to support a violation of law; EEOC can seek to settle a charge; it may be selected for the mediation program; or a charge may be dismissed should evidence not support the claim.
When contacted for comment, Puckett referred all inquiries to Zeiner. A message left for Campbell's attorney Kevin Betz with Betz & Associates had not been returned at press time.