A Smiths Station teacher has filed a lawsuit against the Lee County Board of Education, citing racial discrimination as a factor in her being demoted to a lesser position.

Vivian Martin, a former science teacher at Smiths Station High School, is the subject of a lawsuit filed Tuesday and made available to the public later Thursday regarding allegations that the school board wrongfully terminated her employment at the school. The complaint names school board members Larry Boswell, Milford Burkhalter, Fred Copeland Jr., Roger Keel, Larry Patterson, George Spence and Napoleon Stringer, as well as Smiths Station High Principal Jason Yohn. Former Lee County Superintendent Stephen Nowlin and current superintendent James McCoy have also been named in the suit.

According to the suit, which was filed by attorney Don Eddins, Martin was treated unfairly by Yohn at Smiths Station and that despite her credentials as a science teacher, she was removed from her role in the advanced placement courses, her salary was cut and she was relegated to a lesser role in the department in place of a “less-qualified” white teacher.

“Plaintiff sought the position of Department Head in the Science Department in 2010-11 but Yohn passed over her for the job in favor of a less-qualified Caucasian teacher,” the complaint stated. “The discriminatory act cost plaintiff income and prestige.”

In addition, the complain alleges that Yohn had created a “hostile work environment” for other black teachers and had shown favoritism over certain teachers.

The suit requests that Martin be reinstated as the advanced placement teacher at the school, as well as to be made department head for the school’s science department with full back pay, in addition to compensatory and punitive damages. Martin started at Smiths Station in October 1999 and gained tenure there three years later. She was selected as Teacher of the Year at Smiths Station during the 2008-09 school year and Secondary Teacher of the Year in the school district

No representatives from Lee County, Smiths Station nor Martin’s attorneys were available for comment at deadline.

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