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Former teacher/coach sues school district

Charges breach of contract, age discrimination

Posted: February 1, 2011 5:11 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2011 5:00 a.m.

A former Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) assistant football coach has filed a civil suit against the Kershaw County School District (KCSD), accusing the school district of breach of contract and age discrimination after he was not offered a letter of agreement to work during the 2009-10 school year.

William R. Ingram, who was an at-will employee and worked as an instructor at the Continuous Learning Center (CLC), also filed suit against KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, CLC Principal Dr. John Thompson and L-EHS head football coach Scott Jones -- accusing them all of civil conspiracy.

Ingram was employed by the school district on a year-to-year basis.

In the six-page suit filed Dec. 23, Ingram said Thompson approached him in May 2009 with a letter from Morgan, stating that he would be able to continue working during the 2009-10 academic year if he were willing to receive a salary reduction.

Ingram said the school district failed to notify him at the end of the school year regarding whether or not he would continue teaching during the upcoming year, so he “justifiably relied upon the resumption of his duties in the fall,” which included attending the statewide football clinic for high school coaches, working with the high school athletes during the summer and participating in conditioning drills with the L-EHS football team.

Throughout the summer, Ingram said in the suit he periodically called Thompson and Jones several times a week inquiring about his job, and was “continually reassured that his continued employment was secure.”

The suit also said that because he was led to believe he would continue to be employed during the upcoming school year, he turned “down the opportunity to apply for another coaching position outside of the District to which he would have been hired justifiably relying upon the promises and actions taken by the defendant District.”

“However, in the last week of July, Thompson indicated to the plaintiff that he had no job and that he had been ‘forced’ to hire someone else for the position,” according to the lawsuit. In the suit, Ingram said he later learned the decision to not renew his contract was made on May 31, 2009.

As a result of what he claims is a “breach of contract,” Ingram said he has sustained a loss of earnings and earning capacity.

In addition to the breach of contract, Ingram is also accusing the school district of age discrimination, citing his age as the sole determining factor for the non-renewal of his contract.

According to the suit, Ingram said the school district hired a much younger and uncertified candidate for his position. Ingram said that upon retiring from his position at CLC, Thompson and Morgan promised him that he would “continue to receive this position on a year to year basis until such time as a more qualified applicant should apply.”

Additionally, Ingram said he “incurred the disfavor of Jones, Morgan and the school board” in 2008 after he did not choose a school board member’s son to play in the quarterback position for the L-EHS football team. The other student who vied for the quarterback position, Ingram said in the lawsuit, was more suited to be the starting quarterback.

“These contacts between the defendants resulted in a personal agenda on the part of the individual defendants to cause the plaintiff to lose his position and to cause him special damages,” according to the lawsuit.

As a result of what he alleges is civil conspiracy, Ingram said he has sustained mental anguish, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, and loss of reputation.

On Tuesday morning, KCSD Director for Communications Mary Anne Byrd said the school district received a copy of the lawsuit.

“We have provided it to our legal counsel and they are preparing a formal response that will be filed,” Byrd said, adding that she can’t specifically address any of the claims in the suit. “We will deny Mr. Ingram’s claim. We did not discriminate, and we acted appropriately.”

Ingram is seeking unspecified punitive damages from Thompson, Morgan and Jones, as well as equitable relief, back pay, front pay, and attorney’s fees and costs from the school district.

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