Former principal suing Choates

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, April 10, 2019

BY Beth Alston

AMERICUS — A former Sumter County school principal has filed suit again the superintendent of Sumter County Schools, Torrance Choates.
The federal lawsuit accuses the superintendent, who is black, of racial discrimination, fraudulent reporting, and misuse of school funding. The lawsuit also alleges retaliation against the principal who claims she reported the alleged illegal activity.
The lawsuit’s plaintiff, Lezley Anderson, who is white, worked for the Sumter County School District from 2013-2018, first as a teacher, and later assistant principal, and principal.
Anderson’s allegations include the following:
• She claims that Choates told her that her school was “too white” and urged her to hire some black teachers, and a black male assistant principal.
• She accuses Choates of telling school administrators, including the plaintiff, to “fraudulently report information including student enrollment, school program services, attendance records, and records for services provided to special education students — all in an attempt to keep school funding from the state of Georgia and the federal government.”
• She alleges that Choates expected all the county’s schools to hold fundraisers and deposit 40 percent of what they raised into his “superintendent account” — but Anderson and other principals objected. In addition she claims that Choates expected each school in the system to “give gifts for board of education members and sponsorships for a local chamber of commerce dinner.”
• She claims that Choates retaliated against her by giving her the option of resigning or accepting a poor end-of-year evaluation. Anderson “felt as though she had no choice but to submit her notice for resignation,” her lawsuit says.
Anderson seeks compensation for the alleged racial discrimination, lost wages and benefits, and legal fees.
Choates declined to comment on the lawsuit.