South Putnam officials accused of discrimination

Thursday, October 15, 2009

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.

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  • WOW, the truth is starting to come out. Just wait folks, there is more to come and people will be getting thier feathers ruffled.

    -- Posted by mad-mom on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 6:50 AM
  • WOW! Sure hope all this is not true! I have always liked South Putnam Schools and always will. Good luck and I hope this gets resolved. The facts will come out in the proper place, not the newspaper

    -- Posted by cvilleguy on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 7:58 AM
  • the banner graphic once again removing comments, you didn't remove comments from yesterday about the John marsee case, but you are already removing comments today about this, the comment that the person made was not any worse than what was said yesterday about John and his family, why, why, why is it that you have to remove a lot of the comments made about South Put, you always seem to remove the ones that are actually TRUE111

    -- Posted by senior'08 on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 8:21 AM
  • I sure hope that Mr. Campbell wins this and maybe this community will finally see the truth about this school, the administration runs this school like a prison, students are constantly leaving this school and if I could I move my out of here I would, but I can not do that, I only have a few more years to deal with this school.

    -- Posted by senior'08 on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 8:25 AM
  • Woah my comment was removed! Oh well. I'll just repost.

    -- Posted by Eagle78 on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 12:51 PM
  • I know the school administration has their "favorites" because I had to deal with that when we moved here from the city. Unfortunately, I also had my confrontations with Mr. Puckett on several ocassions. I feel my kids were always the "outsiders" since they were not raised and "groomed" in Putnam County. One of them was one of the star athletes, of course, without acknowledgement from SPHS and looked over every year as "All County". He turned out really good, what about the other "All County" boys?????? Cloverdad160 - you didn't have to try to adapt to "his way or no way" plans when he was athletic director. But oh, I forgot, you knew him because he was your teacher! They keep the administrative positions in the family in Putnam County, that is a definite! I hope that the allegations submitted on Mr. Campbell are not true and I am in no way taking his side without knowing. I am just saying I know how the system works at SPHS.

    -- Posted by Confused citizen on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 2:55 PM
  • First of all, to the Cloverdad. You have no idea of the corruption and favortism that goes on at South Put. I happen to have children who attend this school, but I sure wish they didn't have to. Oh well, only a few years left. I do not understand how the Banner can remove certain comments made by readers. What happened to freedom of speech. It is definitely time to clean house at this school. This needs to start with Puckett and Griswold. Campbell has done nothing worse than all of the things that Griswold is accused of. Why can some higher ups do what ever they want with no consequences??????

    -- Posted by fillmorechick on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 3:05 PM
  • well, well my comment was removed also. i didn't even mention names like the comments above have. definately sensorship. hmmmm i wonder why?

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 3:36 PM
  • please repost eagle78 i want to know what you had to say.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 3:37 PM
  • This whole situation is very sad for South Putnam and all of Putnam county. I began my teaching career at South Putnam and cherish the time I spent there. I worked with a great staff that cared about students! I had the great experience of working under Mr. Puckett as an AD and a principal. Our athletic programs were well organized, competitive, and held to a high standard for both athletes and coaches. I was proud of all our athletic teams during my tenure as a coach. We had lost direction as a staff and moral was low under the previous administration before Mr. Puckett and Mr. Bain took over. Teachers did not feel like they were supported. Dan and Keith changed all that. They raised expectations for everyone at SPHS. I have known and coached with Matt Griswold for years. I am proud to call him my friend and I find these allegations against him outrageous! I knew Mr. Campbell when he first started teaching at SP. I cannot say that I was satisfied with his performance as a teacher or as a role model for students or athletes during the time I knew him. It is time for the 90% of students, parents, and community members who are pleased with the direction of the school to stand up and say "enough". Don't let the 10% who are unhappy continue to slander your school without any response!

    -- Posted by pasteagle on Sat, Oct 17, 2009, at 10:54 AM