Former Rivers Middle teacher settles lawsuit

Rosen Hagood June 2, 2007

By Diette Courrégé
The Post and Courier
Saturday, June 2, 2007

Former Rivers Middle School teacher Michael Woodard settled his racial hostility lawsuit against the Charleston County School District out of court Friday for $25,000.

It’s the second case the district has settled in two months from white complainants alleging racially hostile work environments in predominantly black schools. Both cases alleged school leaders were aware of the racial abuse but failed to act on the situations. Former Brentwood Middle School teacher Elizabeth Kandrac settled her racial hostility lawsuit in April for $200,000.

A third similar case was settled out of court in November 2005 with former Brentwood teacher John Smith, who was awarded $50,000. Smith said he was subjected to racial discrimination and harassment.

As part of all three settlements, the school district admitted no wrongdoing.

Woodard was suspended without pay for three days in October 2003 after being accused of using excessive physical contact with a student.

According to the suit, former Principal Cheryl Bennett allowed black teachers to use the same force on students without punishment. Woodard resigned after the suspension.

Larry Kobrovsky, Woodard’s attorney, said the damage payment was a substantial amount of money that showed the same problems happen across the district and not just at Brentwood. He said he hopes district officials understand they can’t allow teachers to be abused and harassed and ask them to accept that as the culture of the students.

Alice Paylor, the district’s attorney, said the board made a good business decision in choosing to settle the case because they would’ve spent much more trying the case. She said the case isn’t evidence of anything other than the district getting by with paying less money.

Another former Brentwood Middle School teacher, Brandy Stokes, has a federal lawsuit against the district and claims she lost her job because she was white. The case is being settled out of court.