LUMBERTON — A former employee of the Public Schools of Robeson County has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of two lower courts in a discrimination lawsuit he filed against the school system.
Robert Brayboy, a former 15-year employee of the county’s school system, said that he was discriminated against while working at Rowland Middle School because of his health and his race.
“I am just one of the many victims of the Public Schools of Robeson County and their mistreatment and discrimination practices,” Brayboy told The Robesonian Friday.
On Sept. 26, 2011, the nine Supreme Court justices will meet to discuss the case, which has been heard before the U.S. District Court in Wilmington and the U.S. Court of Appeals. Both courts sided with the Robeson County school system.
If four of the nine justices agree, the case will be heard by the court.
In 2006, Brayboy worked at the middle school as a youth development specialist, which is essentially a counselor or social worker, and worked exclusively with American Indian students under the federal guidelines set by the Title 7 Indian Education Formula Grant program.
As part of the program, Brayboy organized a field trip for American Indian students The school’s administrator, a white female, told him to let other children go along, but Brayboy said that would have violated the grant program’s guidelines.
Brayboy said that the administrator also developed a sign-in sheet he had to sign upon entering and leaving the school each day while no other employees were told to do so.
Brayboy’s office was located outside in a mobile unit. As his health declined, he requested to be moved to a vacant office inside the school, but it was given to a white female employee who was a friend of the administrator, according to Brayboy.
“I was humiliated in front of my colleagues and discriminated against,” Brayboy said. “The work place become very hostile, so I ask for a transfer.”
He said that the stress forced him to go on disability in October 2006. After the year ended, Brayboy said he was forced to resign his job if he wanted to continue to get disability payments, which he did.
In December 2007, Brayboy filed a lawsuit against the schools, alleging racial and disability harassment and discrimination.
The U.S. District Court for Eastern North Carolina in Wilmington ruled in favor of the Public Schools of Robeson County.
Brayboy appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which upheld the decision.
Brayboy said that his lawyer had withdrawn from the case and he had been representing himself.
“Really, I was defenseless,” Brayboy said. “I’m not a lawyer but I was doing the best I could.”
Brayboy has enlisted the help of a lawyer and said he has affidavits from co-workers that give statements in his defense, copies of the sign-in sheet and other evidence of discrimination.
“I’m confident it will move forward,” Brayboy said. “I have overwhelming documentation. Had I been able to get all of it together before, we wouldn’t have been here. But now I have the ammunition.”
Trey Allen, a lawyer with the law firm Tharrington Smith of Raleigh, has defended the case for the school system. He said that Supreme Court gets thousands of petitions a year and hears very few.
“I think that both the district court and the court of appeals ruled correctly,” Allen said. “I don’t see any need for further review.”
— Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at (910) 272-6127 or email@example.com.