Discrimination suits filed by three former teachers against Cirrus Academy are moving forward.
On Monday, a federal judge denied Cirrus’ request to dismiss Ginger Snow and Susan Campbell’s claims, and he denied part of the charter school’s motion to dismiss Diana Humble’s claims in a separate lawsuit.
The three women are white, and most of the teachers and staff at the school are black. The women claim that they suffered pay discrimination and harassment, received threatening and “racially hostile” text messages and experienced “retaliatory conduct from their employer,” according to their complaint.
Ashanti Johnson is the CEO of Cirrus Academy, and Gail Fowler is the principal.
“We won’t be commenting on the pending litigation,” said David Cole, an attorney who’s representing Cirrus.
Snow, Campbell and Humble filed separate statements with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Cirrus had filed a motion to dismiss both cases for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, which requires parties to allow the EEOC to fully investigate claims first before a lawsuit is filed.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell denied Cirrus’ motion to dismiss without prejudice the claims in the Snow/Campbell lawsuit. The motion can be refiled. The plaintiffs will have to provide the court with affidavits related to the EEOC complaints and attend a court hearing to discuss the matter further.
“We’re pleased with the court’s order, and now we can commence with the litigation of the case — and hopefully pursue justice for our clients,” said Chad Hoffecker, Snow and Campbell’s attorney. “We’ll begin the long process of litigating the case and the search for the truth.”
In Humble’s lawsuit, Treadwell denied Cirrus’ motion to dismiss her claim of a hostile work environment. However, he granted a motion to dismiss her claims of disparate treatment and pay discrimination, saying she did not exhaust her administrative remedies for those.
Cirrus had asked that allegations from Humble be struck from the Snow/Campbell lawsuit, maintaining that they “are immaterial, impertinent and scandalous,” and that allegations from Snow/Cambpell be struck from Humble’s lawsuit, according to court documents. The court denied both requests.
“Most certainly, they are material to substantiate the plaintiff’s claims,” Treadwell wrote.
Treadwell also granted Cirrus’ motion to dismiss Humble’s retaliation claim under the Georgia Whistleblower Act, which prohibits employers from retaliating against public employees for reporting laws or rules not being followed. Humble reported concerns to the Georgia Department of Education about the school’s compliance with special education requirements.
Treadwell said the claim was “insufficiently pled,” and Humble has 14 days to amend it with additional supporting facts.
The court also granted Cirrus’ motion to dismiss a claim by Campbell and Snow under the Civil Rights Act of 1981, which involves equal rights under the law. The claim did not list the correct section number, and Campbell and Snow have 14 days to appeal and provide the correction information. Hoffecker said they will amend the complaint.
“We are pleased that this case will move forward,” said Ken Barton, a lawyer representing Humble. “This incident has deeply affected Ms. Humble, and we hope that it can be resolved quickly so she can move on with her life and career as an educator.”