THS teacher sues county school system, claims discrimination

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A Thompson High School special education teacher recently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming he allegedly has been passed over for multiple job promotions because of his race and religion.

Birmingham attorneys John Saxon and Adam Pittman filed the lawsuit in District Court on Dec. 11 on behalf of THS teacher Rodney Brown. The lawsuit claims Brown, who has been employed by the Shelby County School System since January 2000, has applied for 15 vacant administration or assistant principal positions in the district over the past six years.

“All of the positions for which (Brown) has applied, and for which he was qualified, (the) defendant filled with a white employee instead of (the) plaintiff, an African American,” read the complaint filed in court.

The complaint also alleged the county school system “has a pattern and practice of promoting white individuals over African-American males.” According to court documents, Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in special education, an administrative certification and has been certified as a “Class A Educational Administrator” by the State Department of Education.

The lawsuit claims Brown has applied for administration and assistant principal positions at Thompson Sixth Grade Center, Oak Mountain High School, Riverchase Middle School, Montevallo Middle School, the Shelby County Alternative School and Thompson High School.

The complaint alleges the 15 positions Brown applied for were filled by white candidates who were “less qualified for the position than the plaintiff.”

The lawsuit also claims Brown, who is the pastor at a Pentecostal church, was asked “several improper questions about his religious activities” during a March 2012 job interview for a vacant position at THS. According to the complaint, Brown allegedly was asked “What is the attendance like at your church?” and “What did you preach on Sunday?”

The lawsuit seeks Brown’s placement in one of the administrative or assistant principal positions he applied for or front pay, back pay and fringe benefits “from the date of his non-promotions,” injunctive relief, reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and court costs and “compensatory damages for loss of wages, loss of benefits, mental anguish, embarrassment and emotional distress.”

Shelby County Schools officials declined to comment on the matter “because it involves pending litigation,” said school system spokeswoman Cindy Warner.