Principal sues over alleged bias

January 07, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A Linthicum high school principal filed a $3.5 million suit yesterday against the Anne Arundel County school board, its acting superintendent and an assistant superintendent, alleging

they refused him a promotion because he is white.

William Wentworth, principal of North County High School, alleges in Circuit Court papers that he was told by a superior before he applied to become director of pupil services that he was qualified for the job but might not get it because of his race.

Leslie Mobray, a black male administrator, was appointed to the position in October.

The suit alleges that after the appointment, the same superior, Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Lawson, told Mr. Wentworth that "he was not promoted to the position because of his race."

"It became a self-fulfilling prophecy for him," said Richard I. Kovelant, Mr. Wentworth's Laurel attorney. Mr. Kovelant is executive director of the Association for Education Leaders, the county principals union.

Mr. Kovelant said the school board has no affirmative action plan to explain any policy it might follow for advancing minorities. Without a plan, there is no legal basis for promotions based on race, he said.

Mr. Kovelant said Mr. Wentworth finished at the top of a list of three qualifying candidates being considered by a school board committee.

Mr. Mobray's name was not on the list. The only black employee included, Mary Newsom, withdrew her application after transferring to another school system, the suit states.

"When the rules say you have to be an equal opportunity employer, you have to be an equal opportunity employer for everybody," Mr. Kovelant said.

The suit names Mr. Lawson, the county Board of Education and acting Superintendent Carol Parham as co-defendants.

Jane Doyle, a county schools spokeswoman, said Dr. Parham, Mr. Lawson and Mr. Mobray would not comment. P. Tyson Bennett, the school board's lawyer, also declined comment, saying he hadn't seen the suit yesterday.

The suit also alleges that Dr. Parham "threatened retaliation" against Mr. Wentworth "if he made any complaint or took any administrative or legal action in response."

Mr. Kovelant said yesterday that Dr. Parham never threatened his client with any specific course of action but that it was more of a general warning to accept the decision quietly.

"No one specifically said that he would be sent to Siberia. It was more, 'You better think this thing through carefully and deal with your personal situation,' " he said.

As a 20-year employee of county schools, Mr. Wentworth earns about $69,500 annually, according to county budget officials. As director of pupil services, he would earn $78,140.

Mr. Kovelant said school officials refused to discuss the issue before the suit was filed.

The suit seeks $1.5 million on the claim that school officials violated Mr. Wentworth's federal rights to equal protection and another $2 million for alleged violations of his state rights to equal protection.

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