Ex-school superintendent accuses board of bias

February 28, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

The first African-American to head a school district on the Eastern Shore has sued the all-white school board that fired him in 1992.

At the conclusion of H. DeWayne Whittington's four-year term as superintendent of Somerset County schools, the school board voted 3-2 against renewing his contract, giving little explanation for its decision, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, indicates that his troubles began after the election of several new board members.

According to the lawsuit:

One candidate, John L. Ent Jr., had told a local newspaper reporter that he opposed Dr. Whittington as superintendent because he didn't want a "nigger" running the schools.

Another candidate, Anna M. Taylor, indicated that Dr. Whittington's position was a "sore spot" in her family.

After Mr. Ent and Mrs. Taylor and a third new board member, Ted W. Abbott, were elected, they frequently questioned Dr. Whittington's integrity and second-guessed his decisions. Nevertheless, the suit said, they did not express dissatisfaction during his performance evaluations.

When they voted against renewing his contract, it was the first time in Dr. Whittington's 38 years with the schools that a superintendent was not reinstated, the suit said.

Mr. Ent declined to comment except to deny making the racist statement during his campaign.

School board attorney John Houlihan of Salisbury and Mrs. Taylor could not be reached.

After refusing to renew Dr. Whittington's contract, the board also denied him any other jobs with the school system. He was passed over for a job teaching physical education in favor of a 22-year-old who was not certified to teach in Maryland, the suit said.

"He's really lived the civil rights era and has always fought his battles within the system," said Nathan E. Siegel, attorney for the 62-year-old Dr. Whittington.

"For someone in that position to be a victim of this kind of discrimination at the end of his career is particularly unfair."

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