MOULTRIE, Ga. — A former Cox Elementary School principal has filed suit against the Colquitt County School System seeking information about his termination.

The Georgia Association of Educators on behalf of former Cox principal Dr. William Leamon Madison filed an Open Records Act lawsuit Friday, according to a release from Williams Oinonen, LLC, the attorney’s office representing Madison and the GAE. 

In the complaint filed with Colquitt County Superior Court, Madison claims his contract with the school system was not renewed at the end of the 2020-2021 school year after an email he sent out to teachers at Cox Elementary regarding the “support of students, as well as speaking out against injustice and discrimination in a positive, affirming way.”

The email was in response to the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and the protests that followed that event. The complaint does not say when Madison sent the email.

“Madison served as a principal of Colquitt County Schools from 2018 to spring of 2021,” the complaint read. “… For the past 17 years, Madison always received stellar end of year satisfactory work performance evaluations. It wasn’t until after Madison sent out an email letter, subsequent to the murder of George Floyd concerning race discrimination during the 2020-2021 school year, that he became subjected to overt retaliation and a hostile work environment.”

The complaint alleges that then-School Superintendent Doug Howell told Madison several Board of Education members were upset by the email and “calling for his job.” Retaliating against someone for speaking out against discrimination is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the complaint says. 

The complaint also alleges a white teacher at the school told Madison, “We’re going to lynch you.” It says when the teacher was confronted about the statement, she denied it.

The BoE voted not to renew Madison’s contract on March 22, 2021 — approximately three days after he reported the incident with the teacher, according to the complaint. 

Madison claims that while he was continuing to serve as principal until May 28, 2021, he continued to experience discrimination and retaliation. 

On April 12, 2021, Madison sent an email to Howell requesting various documents including:

  • All documents and records — including cell phone text messages and email — regarding Madison that were exchanged to or from Howell, HR director James Harrell, BoE members Mary Beth Watson, Jon Schwalls and Robbie Pitts, and 13 named teachers. 
  • All documents and records in support of the decision to not renew Madison’s contract.
  • Madison’s complete personnel file.
  • All information related to the consent decree consent order, unitary status and the lawsuit U.S. v. State of Georgia, et al. C.A. No. 12972, between the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, Department of Education and Colquitt County School District as well as documents pertaining to any school system accreditation (state or federal), especially in regards to the demographic makeup of the CCSS as it pertains to Blacks in teaching positions and positions of leadership.

The complaint claims that while the CCSS did respond to Madison’s open records request, the documents were incomplete and deficient specifically as it related to cell phone text messages between various board members, Howell and the other district employees.

The complaint says the school system’s counsel said it could not provide text messages from district employees’ or board members’ cell phones because it did not possess those phones. 

The complaint argues that those text messages are public records under Georgia’s Open Records Law, and it seeks a third-party forensic examination of the cell phones to extract the information.

When reached by The Observer Monday afternoon, Angela Hobby, chief communications director for the Colquitt County School System, declined to comment on “open litigation.”

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