Assistant principal sues school district, alleges discrimination

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comDecember 28, 2011 

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An assistant principal at Shell Point Elementary School has filed a lawsuit against the Beaufort County School District, alleging age and race discrimination.

Francina Shack has been passed over for promotion to principal positions six times since being hired by the district in 2006, says the suit, filed Nov. 22 in U.S. District Court.

Each time a younger, less experienced and less qualified white person got the job, the suit says.

"That raises a whole lot of suspicion," her attorney Herbert W. Louthian said.

Shack, 42, has graduate and undergraduate degrees in education administration, counseling and psychology, according to the suit. She has worked in public schools for 17 years and started with the Beaufort County district as an assistant principal at Battery Creek High School.

Last summer, Shack applied to be the principal of Whale Branch Middle School. She was never interviewed for the position, Louthian said.

The district chose Matthew Hunt. Superintendent Valerie Truesdale said Hunt was the assistant principal at the school last school year.

Shack asked officials in the district's human resources department why she wasn't interviewed and didn't get the promotion. The lawsuit alleges that in retaliation, the district reassigned her from assistant principal at Hilton Head Island High School to Shell Point Elementary, which is slated to close at the end of this school year.

The lawsuit calls that position a demotion from the Hilton Head High position she had held since 2008.

The last time she worked in administration for an elementary school was as a guidance counselor in 1998, according to the suit.

Truesdale denied she was demoted.

"I'm confident that we would not have moved an assistant principal from a high school to an elementary school if that person had not wanted to go to an elementary school," Truesdale said in response to the allegations.

Louthian said the position at Shell Point, which is in Port Royal, also requires more travel and expense for Shack, who lives in Bluffton. Shack's salary did not decline, Louthian said.

Shack deferred all comments to Louthian.

She wants the district to reimburse her for lost benefits, retirement benefits, back pay and future pay she would have received had she been promoted to a principal position, Louthian said.

The district has been granted a 21-day extension to file a response to the suit -- until Jan. 17 -- because of the holiday season and the district being closed for break.

Attempts Wednesday to reach the district's attorney, Andrew Lindemann, were unsuccessful.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

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