Ficklin accuses Bibb school system of age discrimination in lawsuit

Longtime Bibb County educator Henry Ficklin has filed suit against the school system in federal court, alleging age discrimination.

The 60-year-old Ficklin, director of Southwest High School’s law academy and a former Macon City Council member, contends that the school system passed him over for at least 28 different principal or assistant principal jobs over the years and gave them to younger applicants instead.

“I’ve applied for every one that’s been vacant,” Ficklin said Monday of the administrative jobs, ranging from positions at Southwest and Howard high schools to Carter Elementary and a recent principal’s opening at Bloomfield Middle.

“I have been a loyal and dedicated employee of the Bibb County school system for over 30 years and put my whole self into my job, and I don’t think I’ve been treated fairly,” he said.

Ficklin, who is working on an educational leadership degree at Mercer University, filed suit in U.S. District Court, asking for unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering and for back wages for wrongful denial of a promotion.

Sherry Culves, a Bibb County school system attorney, said she hadn’t seen a copy of the lawsuit as of Monday afternoon, so she couldn’t respond to details of the allegations.

“Of course the school district denies that Mr. Ficklin has been the subject of any age discrimination and will emphatically defend that its hiring and promotion practices are appropriate and in compliance with the law,” she said.

According to the suit, filed Friday afternoon, Ficklin started with the school system in 1973 and has shown the leadership qualities necessary for an administrative position. He said he finished at the top of his class in a 2004 Administrators’ Institute of Leadership program designed to help turn educators into principals.

The suit alleges that each of the other members in that class all went on to get assistant principal positions, with the exception of Ficklin.

Ficklin was once appointed as an interim assistant principal at Southwest, and he received positive feedback, but the suit says he was demoted to social studies teacher once the system filled the position with a younger applicant.

During the 2007-08 school year, the suit also states that Southwest principal Tyrone Bacon recommended Ficklin for a vacant assistant principal’s job at Southwest, but the school board voted not to appoint him.

In July, he was also denied an interview for an assistant principal position at Howard High School, the suit states. Other Bibb County school officials did not address the complaint.

“I can’t make any comments about it because it is in litigation,” school board President Tom Hudson said.

Superintendent Sharon Patterson didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

Ficklin has filed an age discrimination allegation against the school system before. In 2006, he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with similar allegations, but the case was eventually dismissed.

Ficklin has served as Southwest’s social studies department chairman, and he served on council from 1979 to 2007, when he relinquished his post for an unsuccessful mayoral bid.