Guest Op-Ed: Ageism, Discrimination and a Cover-Up in Cherokee County Schools

Guest Op-Ed: Ageism, Discrimination and a Cover-Up in Cherokee County Schools

By: Alan Bastanpour 

After living in Cherokee County, Georgia for over 25 years and working within their education system for 15, I am here to tell you that discrimination, favoritism, and fear culture is alive and well within the walls of our school halls. 

 

Discrimination and Fear Mongering at It’s Finest

In the last 5 years of my employment with Cherokee County School District (CCSD), I watched helplessly as I got replaced by younger workers without being given any reason. Despite my performance as an employee constantly being tested, and me passing with flying colors, they continued to take my work away from me, and isolate me from the team. 

Every time I approached my boss, the current Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a growth road map, he would instead tell me that “No one likes to work with you,” and “They hate working with you,” instead of providing any actual feedback or specific examples. He continued to barrage me with personal attacks to create a deliberate atmosphere of hate. This man even ridiculed me for my political views out of nowhere during a meeting about technology issues to provoke me. These people know the employment laws, that’s why they did me wrong.

discrimination
Alan Bastanpour, guest contributor

Nevertheless, I continually had major projects dumped on me that I was never trained for, after the people initially assigned to the project failed. To me, I was being set up for failure.

In one instance, a massive project was unexpectedly given to me only three (3) days before it was supposed to happen- a project that would have ordinarily taken weeks for me to do. This setup for failure did not stop, as we started having more issues. Toward the end of my service at CCSD, we ended up having a major hardware crash in our data center. I reported this failure to my managers and requested help. The managers responsible for this issue neglected to help me even after multiple emails. 

The more I attempted to speak up, the worse the punishments became. At this point, I am being personally attacked by the CIO, and being written up with false information just to produce fabricated documents. 

In a last attempt to help mend my situation, I turned to Human Resources (HR) and approached another high-ranking manager to report this issue to the county who appeared to be receptive and sympathetic to my situation. However, the CIO found out I talked to this person and that I had told him everything I knew. Immediately after his discovery, the CIO held a staff meeting to discuss internet usage, and shortly after the staff meeting, he went directly to the superintendent to bypass HR and make me resign. Please note he is a close friend of the superintendent.

After 15 years and endless dedication, the ultimate reason for my resignation was internet usage. I asked HR to look for the information I had in terms of emails, DocuSign, etc. and they refused. 

Now, let’s back up and look at a different situation that only occurred a few years earlier as CCSD’s model for ‘good behavior.’ 

What’s the Model for Cherokee County Schools?

During the early part of 2000, Cherokee County School System’s spokesman was seen on local TV stations giving a DUI walk which was captured on a police dash-cam. A lot of us watched this individual on TV wearing the Sheriff’s pants while given the DUI test. He had these particular pants on because he was friends with one of the Sheriffs at Cherokee County.

After his news break on the local TV channel, we came to find out he had at least 2 or more DUIs. However, this story doesn’t end with his DUI. This sort of personal mess and brush with the law would surely cause some sort of consequence? Wrong. 

Ordinarily, no one would be allowed to keep their job, but instead, the superintendent at the time hired a new spokesperson for the school system, and they moved this man to the Technology department. Please note that most teachers with this level of conduct would have been dismissed. However, he was eventually promoted to Chief of Staff. 

Seeking Justice with No Avail 

After my forced departure, I began looking for legal options to get things right. This is where I started noticing how difficult it is in the state of Georgia– which is a Right to Work State– to go after wrongdoings done by employers. I discovered I would need to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against CCSD.

Not being familiar with EEOC, I decided to find other law firms in the Atlanta area. I reached out to multiple firms by completing either an online intake form or a verbal conversation. Every one of these firms didn’t want to help the moment I mentioned the name Cherokee County School System. 

At this point, I saw no other option than filing with EEOC, which I did. My initial filing was quick, and I was quickly scheduled for an in-person interview. The interview lasted over an hour, and I was told there was a pattern of conduct. After this interview, EEOC contacted CCSD, and as usual they denied and overlooked what was done to me in favor of protecting their own.

It was about 2 months or so when EEOC sent CCSD the charging letter. CCSD was charged with age discrimination.

At this point, I am waiting to proceed with the next step after the charge has been made. So, I also decided to Contact the Georgia Professional Educators Department and file the same detailed complaint. I also sent the same documents to the Georgia Department of Labor and the State Superintendent of Education.

After I contacted the above institutions, things seemed to stop. Several weeks went by and I finally contacted the Ethics department to seek an update on my complaint. Finally, the Ethics department replied by saying, “We looked at the information you sent us, and the commissioner found nothing. And we have expunged all the data.” I asked what the reason for this decision was. They gave me no answer. So, I called the witness list I provided and no one on my list was called. They did not investigate. This is where CCSD shines. 

To make things stranger, I decided to email my EEOC case worker to find out why my case is moving slowly or at least get some sort of update and I got no answer from EEOC. Consequently, the Labor Commissioner sent me a reply by saying that the state of Georgia is ‘right to work’ state, and the employer can do good and bad to dispose of people. All of this only fueled me to contact the Georgia Governor’s office and many state politicians. I send letters and emails to all, with no avail. 

As time progressed, I finally got a letter from EEOC telling me my case was being moved to the State of Alabama. It got a new case worker and it got parked there for over 6 months. After months of multiple emails, the case worker finally called me and said, your case is being closed because it was a performance issue. Yet, the case had not been investigated and not a single person on my witness list had been contacted. 

How many people like me are going to get abused until people realize how one-sided things are? We have no choice if we continue to play by their game, and their rules. Zero. So, maybe it’s time for a change. 

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