Federal agency takes the lead in investigation of alleged racial discrimination in Fayette schools

Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington.
Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington. Herald-Leader

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking the lead in an investigation of whether black Fayette County Public Schools employees are victims of discrimination.

An employee discrimination complaint against the district was filed in January by the Lexington-Fayette County Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Commission director Raymond Sexton said this week that in the latest development, district officials have responded to questions from the EEOC.

The complaint obtained by the Herald-Leader in January said that between May 1, 2012, and Jan. 16, 2015, the district "has engaged in a pattern of systemic racial discriminatory practices regarding recruitment and retention of minorities, lack of equity in pay, overall inclusion of minorities, harassment and retaliation."

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On Thursday, John G. McNeill, a Lexington attorney representing the school district in the EEOC case, told the Herald-Leader, "We can't comment on any pending matters."

The complaint was filed after Sexton said he received between 15 and 25 complaints alleging that district employees were victims of race discrimination. The complaint said the violation of the Civil Rights Act was "based on race, black."

Sexton said on Wednesday the commission was staying involved in the investigation but that the EEOC had more resources. He said that the EEOC's office based in Indiana was handling the Fayette County complaint.

The human rights commission is an independent agency of the Urban County Government. It investigates discrimination complaints in employment, housing and public accommodations. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee because of the person's race, color or religion.

EEOC staff did not respond to the Herald-Leader's request for a comment this week.

But according to NAACP officials who have spoken at school meetings since the complaint was filed, concerns persist.

In late April, William Saunders, president of the Lexington chapter of the NAACP, told the school board that minority employees were being retaliated against and threatened with the loss of their jobs because of the pending Human Rights Commission complaint.

At the most recent regular school board meeting, on Aug. 24, Shambra Mulder, the NAACP's education chair, told board members that NAACP officials were pleased that the district had hired a recruiter to recruit and retain more minority staff.

But Mulder said "we're still concerned about the treatment of minority staff and the reason they filed a complaint" with the Human Rights Commission.