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Former Williamsburg County school district coach says district nearly ruined his life

(WPDE)

Former Williamsburg County School District adjunct teacher and basketball coach Andre L. Weathers said the district nearly ruined his life and reputation by retaliating against him for making complaints to the S.C. Department of Education about the district.

"It was real emotional. Because sometimes I laid down at night and thought, 'How did I get to this point?' Because my only goal was to help kids. You know, to give them a way out. Or to give them hope,” said Weathers.

He filed a lawsuit last week against the district for wrongful termination in violation of the Teacher Dismissal Act, Whistleblower Act and public policy and civil conspiracy, due to process violations and defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress or outrage and negligent retention and supervision, according to a copy of the lawsuit.

The suit names Carrie Brock, Frankie Tisdale and Donna Palmer-Lewis as employees of the district.

Weathers worked at Hemingway High School from August 2015 to September 2016.

The lawsuit says Weathers contacted the State Department of Education about "teacher manipulation of grades and the District covering sexual harassment claims."

“I noticed that a lot of grades was being changed. A lot of things that shouldn't have been done was being done. But, as a first year teacher you kind of want to feel your way out. Because you don't want to say too much or know who to say it too. Because you're just getting started in that profession. But I do know they did a lot of wrong,” said Weathers.

The lawsuit said school administrators "informed that he was being accused of forging personal relationships with students using the same fake name."

The district's superintendent terminated the Weathers immediately without giving him any grievance rights under the Teacher Dismissal Act and on Oct. 26, 2016, the South Carolina State Board of Education issued an Order of Summary Suspension of Weather's Educator Certificate based only on the allegations of the school district, the suit said.

Weathers was never charged criminally based on the allegations of the district, the suit said, and his SLED report still shows no arrest data for him.

"On March 28, 2017, the South Carolina State Board of Education issued an Order that the summary suspension of Plaintiff’s Educator Certificate be lifted since the Board was without sufficient justification for sustaining summary suspension”.

However, Weathers said in the suit, he could not get subsequent employment with other state agencies or other jobs because of the false allegations and the School District’s negative job references.

He's seeking "reinstatement, back pay and other compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as damages for allowable state claims."

This lawsuit comes on the heels of the State Department of Education taking over the Williamsburg County School District.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman declared a state of emergency in the Williamsburg County School District two weeks ago due to financial mismanagement, systemic programmatic issues and poor student academic performance, according to a news release.

The release said state law says the state superintendent of education "may declare a state of emergency in a district if the accreditation status is probation or denied, if a majority of the schools fail to show improvement, if the district is classified as being in 'high risk' status financially or for financial mismanagement resulting in a deficit.” Upon declaration of a state of emergency, the state superintendent may take over management of the district."

Weathers said he feels vindicated now that the state has taken over the troubled district, but his heart is still with the students.

“You want to feel good. And I do, but the sad part about is the kids still suffering. I would love for the school district to get back on track. And I think that the first step has been taken by the state department of education taking over," said Weathers.

S.C. Department of Education Communications Director Ryan Brown responded on behalf of the Williamsburg County School District.

Brown said they have an attorney handling the case and can't comment at this time.

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