DeKalb Schools: Ex-principal sues for race, age discrimination

Region VII Superintendent Bernetta Jones

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Region VII Superintendent Bernetta Jones

A former DeKalb County School District administrator is suing the district, alleging he was discriminated against because of his age and forced to work in a competitive environment based on sex and race.

Shelton Bernard, 55, is seeking damages for lost wages and legal fees through a U.S. District Court civil lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Bernard alleges DeKalb County Board of Education member Michael Erwin, when he was board chairman, questioned his appointment and effectiveness as Cedar Grove High School principal. According to court documents, “Erwin stated to a colleague, ‘Don’t you think that [Bernard] has been in the game too long?’ referencing Bernard’s age.

The lawsuit states Erwin was a deciding factor in Bernard being demoted in January 2019. He was promoted to Cedar Grove High School in the summer of 2018.

The DeKalb County School District declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing the pending litigation. Officials also did not answer questions regarding Bernard’s last rate of pay, how long he worked for the district or what position or positions to which he was subsequently assigned following his demotion.

The lawsuit also contends Bernard was questioned about whether he could handle reporting to a woman after Bernetta Jones was appointed as his regional superintendent in 2017, saying Jones “expressly sought to create a competitive environment based on sex and race.”

Principals report directly to the regional superintendent in their respective regions.

Jones was placed on administrative leave for several weeks in 2018 and investigated after a meeting where she, according to various social media posts, told male subordinates they needed to "grow some balls."

When she returned, then-Superintendent Steve Green said she made a mistake and had learned a lesson from it.

Bernard said Jones scolded him and other black male employees to not let "white girls" outperform them, saying the white women who were principals were more comfortable in their skin than the black men who were principals. Bernard said he was required to submit to a Performance Development Plan he felt was "a pretext to dismissing or otherwise adversely affecting" him.

According to the court documents, though Bernard felt he complied with the terms of the plan, Jones still declared he could not work in her region in any capacity, which led to his demotion.

Efforts to reach Bernard’s attorney, John D. Wales of The Law Office of John D. Wales in Marietta, were not successful.