UNION — The Union County School District is working with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to review its athletic program after being informed of a federal investigation into allegations that the district discriminated against female athletes.
In December 2012, Jessica Sherbert held a press conference in the hallway outside a meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees. She decided to hold the conference after being told at two separate board meetings that she could express grievances — about what she called inconsistent district policies — during executive session, but not publicly. Board members said they were advised to discuss matters in executive session that would involve naming specific employees or their job titles. In the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, Section 30-4-70, the first purpose listed for Executive Session is “discussion of employment matters related to an employee.”
The letter goes on to state, “Because we have determined that we have jurisdiction and the complaint was timely filed, we are opening the complaint for investigation. Please note that opening the complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to its merit. During the investigation OCR is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the complainant, the district, and other sources, as appropriate.”
Union County School District Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall responded to the OCR’s notification of investigation.
“The district is working with our attorneys and the Office of Civil Rights to review the athletic offerings and opportunities provided to our students,” Woodall stated. “The district is proud of our history and tradition of excellence in student activities such as athletics, fine arts, and JROTC. While we are confident that there has been no discrimination in the athletic opportunities provided to our female students, we welcome any feedback and suggestions the Office of Civil Rights offers regarding improvements or changes needed.”
Look for more information regarding this situation as it becomes available in The Union Daily Times and on www.uniondailytimes.com.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.