Group threatens lawsuit

Published 9:42 pm Friday, February 12, 2010

RICH SQUARE — Some of those who allege they have been harassed by Northampton County High School—East Principal Pamela Chamblee are considering legal action.

On Thursday evening, a group of 11 people, including parents along with former and current employees of NCHS-East gathered here to discuss the possibility of a law suit against Principal Chamblee, Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy and the Northampton County Board of Education.

In the meantime, more allegations of harassment by Chamblee were also presented as well as reported negligence by Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy and the Northampton County School Board to investigate the claims.

Eunice Ward, a supporter of the group, said they have already contacted an attorney who has agreed to take on their case.

“We are going to sue and there is a lawsuit coming,” she said.

Ward, who is retired from the education field as a SIMS testing coordinator and public relations representative, said she’s never seen anything like what is happening at NCHS-East.

Ward said three ex-employees and two present employees stated that they have been affected medically by the alleged harassment and have suffered panic attacks, depression and restless nights. She added those five individuals have doctor’s notes to corroborate their symptoms are from work related stress.

She said the group is trying to get a Board of Education special meeting called so they can discuss the claims.

According to the group, several officials on the state and federal levels have been presented with a packet of information detailing the claims, including the State Superintendent June Atkinson, Governor Beverly Perdue’s office and Congressman G.K. Butterfield.

A packet has also been sent to Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who held a hearing last year to determine who would control Halifax County Schools in light of poor academic scores in the school district.

Ward said 36 people comprising current and former staff members as well as parents have expressed their support for legal action.

Some individuals in attendance did not want to identify themselves because of their own possible litigation against Chamblee and school officials, but did share their experiences.

Many accused the administrator of yelling at them, embarrassing them in front of their students and pushing good teachers out of the school, creating a high turnover rate and an instable environment for students. Some individuals also accused Dr. Bracy and the Board of not properly investigating their claims.

“They’ve been sweeping it under the rug,” Ward alleged.

Former mathematics teacher Shonda Harris-Muhammed who now teaches in Richmond, Va. could not attend the meeting, but sent a letter to the group describing the alleged harassment she received from Chamblee.

Muhammed, who worked at NCHS-East from September-December 2008, said she notified then Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kelvin Edwards of the mistreatment she was receiving from Chamblee.

“I documented every incident of yelling at me, embarrassing me in front of students and her assistant principal,” she wrote. “Ms. Chamblee was so rude and out of control that she once entered into my classroom during fifth period and slammed the door while I was teaching.”

Muhammed, a 14 year educator, goes on to describe an incident during a meeting with Chamblee and the assistant principal to address the issues Muhammed was having with Chamblee.

“She stated to me clearly, firmly, and with confidence, you can resign. I will place that form in your box today,” she wrote.

Muhammed then contacted Dr. Bracy about the issue, but according to her nothing was done.

She then went to Board Chair Grace Edwards with a request for a transfer.

Board of Education Chairperson Grace Edwards said does remember speaking with Muhammed about a transfer request, but that it had been handled through the proper personnel procedure.

Muhammed said Bracy found no reason to transfer her at the time.

In the meantime, the alleged harassment continued. Muhammed said she was yelled at by Chamblee after using the bathroom directly across from her classroom even after she had stationed another staff member to look watch her students.

“Ms. Chamblee had other teachers come in and observe me to see if I was teaching, using pacing guides and the curriculum frame work,” she writes. “She had the darn custodian come in and observe. He literally wrote down what I was doing.”

Muhammed concluded, “After months of harassment, in and out (of) arguments with Ms. Chamblee and the lack of support from the district, I took the advice of the Human Resource Director and resigned without taking it further. I just did not have the strength and I was tired of being treated the way she was treating me.”

Contacted by the News-Herald on Friday, Edwards said she could not account for the reports of harassment talked about at the group meeting and could not talk about personnel issues.

She referred to parent Cathy Mason’s comments that were brought before the board at the beginning of the month.

“It concerns me and it concerns all of the school board members,” she said. “We are following the proper procedures.”

She added the personnel issue that was going on with an individual at NCHS-East had not been finalized yet.

Dr. Bracy could not be reached for comment.