Former Cox principal sues school system | Local News

MOULTRIE, Ga. — A former principal of Cox Elementary School has filed a lawsuit against the Colquitt County School System seeking information about his firing.

The Georgia Association of Educators, on behalf of former Cox director Dr. William Leamon Madison, filed an Open Records Act lawsuit on Friday, according to a statement from Williams Oinonen, LLC, the attorney’s office representing Madison and the GAE.

In the lawsuit filed in Colquitt County Superior Court, Madison claims his contract with the school system was not renewed at the end of the 2020-2021 school year after an email he sent to teachers at Cox Elementary regarding “supporting students, as well as speaking out against injustice and discrimination in a positive and assertive way.

The email was in response to the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the protests that followed that event. The complaint does not say when Madison sent the email.

“Madison served as superintendent of Colquitt County Schools from 2018 through the spring of 2021,” the complaint read. “…Over the past 17 years, Madison has consistently received excellent year-end satisfactory job performance reviews. It was only after Madison emailed a letter, to the following the murder of George Floyd over racial discrimination in the 2020-2021 school year, that he faced overt retaliation and a hostile work environment.

The complaint alleges that then-school superintendent Doug Howell told Madison that several school board members were upset by the email and “called his job.” Retaliation against someone for speaking out against discrimination is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the complaint states.

The complaint also alleges that a white teacher at the school told Madison, “We’re going to lynch you.” He says when the teacher was confronted with the statement, she denied it.

The BoE voted not to renew Madison’s contract on March 22, 2021 – about three days after it reported the incident with the teacher, according to the complaint.

Madison claims that while he continued to serve as director until May 28, 2021, he continued to face discrimination and retaliation.

On April 12, 2021, Madison emailed Howell requesting various documents, including:

  • All documents and records – including text messages and cellphone emails – relating to Madison that were exchanged to or from Howell, Human Resources Director James Harrell, BoE members Mary Beth Watson, Jon Schwalls and Robbie Pitts, and 13 appointed teachers.
  • All documents and records supporting the decision not to renew Madison’s contract.
  • Madison’s complete personnel file.
  • All information relating to the Consent Decree Consent Order, Unitary Status and US v. State of Georgia, et al. CA No. 12972, between the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Office, Department of Education, and Colquitt County School District, and records relating to any school system accreditation (state or federal), particularly regarding the demographic makeup of the CCSS as it relates to blacks in teaching and leadership roles.

The complaint claims that although the CCSS responded to Madison’s request for open records, the records were incomplete and deficient, particularly with respect to cellphone text messages between various council members, Howell and other employees of the district.

The complaint says the school system’s attorney said he could not provide text messages from the cell phones of district employees or board members because he did not own those phones.

The complaint argues that these text messages are public records under Georgia’s Open Records Act, and it requests a third-party forensic examination of the cellphones to extract the information.

When reached by The Observer on Monday afternoon, Angela Hobby, chief communications officer for the Colquitt County School System, declined to comment on the “open dispute.”

Jeremy S. McLain