A former Anne Arundel County teacher has filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the school system, contending that she was systematically bypassed for promotion in favor of younger applicants and faced retribution when she complained.
Christine Davenport, 62, claims in a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore this week that the county school system retaliated against her when she lodged complaints two years ago alleging that her seniority prevented her from getting a job as assistant principal.
"The Board of Education has intentionally discriminated against Ms. Davenport because of her age with the goal of advancing younger candidates for administrative positions," the lawsuit claims.
Bob Mosier, spokesman for the school system, said he would not comment on pending litigation.
Davenport referred questions about the lawsuit to her attorney, Cary J. Hansel, who said his client was "forced out" last year.
Well-known in the community, Davenport joined the county school system in 1972. She spent most of her years teaching at MacArthur Middle School, where she was a teacher for gifted and talented students for about 15 years and student government adviser for about 18 years.
The Glen Burnie resident was also elected to the county's Democratic Central Committee, has helped found several programs aimed at helping children and was appointed this year by Gov. Martin O'Malley to the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission.
The lawsuit contends that Davenport sought an administration job and spent $1,400 to accelerate studies for the administrative certificate required by the school system. In 2005, she completed it and became an administrative intern.
But she was passed over while the school system "handpicked numerous younger teachers" — some who were less qualified and hadn't completed their certificates — and was told by an administrator that she would not become an assistant principal because of her seniority, the lawsuit says.
Her lawsuit alleges that the job candidate just before her at an interview in 2008 told her that the questions he was asked were identical to seven questions he'd been given ahead of time to prepare for the oral evaluation for an assistant principal job. He had what the lawsuit calls a "cheat-sheet," and gave the questions to Davenport, who asked her interviewer about it, according to the lawsuit.
He, like other applicants Davenport learned of who got the "cheat-sheet," are under age 40, the lawsuit says. Davenport complained to the administration about people being given questions in advance, but nothing came of that, according to the allegations.
She took her complaint in 2010 to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, according to the lawsuit.
"Since she has raised the issues of age discrimination and cheating in candidate interviews and has commenced legal action, AACPS has demoted Ms. Davenport from her administrative trainee position and assigned her to a position as a classroom teacher at Marley Middle School," the lawsuit says.
It also contends that she was not given the curriculum guides that other teachers received, was placed under heightened scrutiny and told to improve, in moves aimed at laying the grounds for firing her, according to the lawsuit.
She became ill from stress and in November 2010 went on leave, the lawsuit says. The six-count lawsuit seeks $5 million in compensatory damages, $3 million in punitive damages, back pay and benefits, and an end to the alleged discrimination.
Baltimore Sun reporter Joe Burris contributed to this article.