Volunteers say fed complaints led to ban from WHS

  • Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two volunteers at Waccamaw High School say they have been banned from school property after initiating a federal investigation for alleged Title IX violations by the school and the Georgetown County School District.

Principal David “(Hammel) told someone that we, the Fords, were ‘banned’ from the school and if we came on campus we would be ‘trespassing,’” said Pawleys Island resident Joe Ford, who has volunteered for several years at the school along with his wife, Foy.

The investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is based on complaints from the Fords that the school district did not have a Title IX Coordinator or a grievance procedure as required by law when they tried to file complaints on the local level. Those complaints included allegations that neither the cheer leading coach nor the cheer booster club were being treated equitably.

The Fords also say a bank account in their name, created for the Waccamaw High Cheer Booster Club, should not be consolidated with the school’s Athletic Booster Club.

“This issue started when Mr. Hammel demanded that the Cheer Booster Club consolidate with the Athletic Booster Club,” Joe Ford said in a written statement.

“This issue is not about the account. That is what the school district wants it to be about, so that the public will not be apprized of the fact that for years the school district did not pay female cheerleading coaches equitably.”

When contacted by Inlet Outlook, Hammel and Dozier deferred questions to the school district’s attorney, Andrea White with Duff, White and Turner of Columbia, S.C.

White said she hasn’t heard of any ban against the Fords coming onto the school property.

She said in fact, Foy Ford was on the property recently, helping the cheerleading team get ready for a competition.

White said the school district certainly pays its coaches equitably, whether they are coaching girls or boys sports. She also said the district has a policy that all booster clubs at each school put the money they raise into a single Athletic Booster Club account.

“All athletic booster clubs are required to do that now,” White said.

“The Ford situation came about because parents were complaining that they didn’t know where the money the booster club had raised was going. The Georgetown County School District’s policy protects the volunteers, the school and the district by providing accountability for these funds.”

She also said that the school district had a Title IX coordinator, Dr. Marthena Grate Morant, before she retired as the executive director of human resources as of June 30, 2013.

At that time, she said there might have been some confusion because John Tester took over her position and was not officially named Title IX coordinator, although he served in that capacity.

Morant returned to work for the school district in August and was appointed Title IX coordinator again, White said.

She said the grievance procedure for Title IX complaints can be found on the school district’s website.

David Thomas, with the press office, U.S. Department of Education, said in a written statement, “In September 2013, OCR received a complaint alleging that Georgetown County School District discriminated on the basis of sex. OCR is currently investigating whether the district discriminated on the basis of sex by failing to designate a Title IX coordinator and failing to provide appropriate notification of the identity or contact information for the Title IX coordinator prior to September 2013. OCR is also investigating allegations of retaliation by the district. As this is an open investigation, OCR cannot discuss any additional details about the complaint or the investigation.”

He wrote that there is no specific target date for completing this investigation, but the OCR’s goal is to resolve complaints within 180 days of their receipt.

“However, some cases may take longer to resolve in light of the complexity of the issues and specific facts and circumstances presented,” he wrote.

Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972.

It states (in part) that

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance...”

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