by: Rachel Stockman Updated:
ATLANTA - A Polk County special education teacher filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was harassed and retaliated against after he tried to advocate for children with disabilities in his class.
In 2013, Robert Furr won Teacher of the Year from the Georgia Career Technical and Agricultural Education.
Not even a year later, Furr said he was forced to file a federal lawsuit against the Polk County School District, claiming constitutional and civil rights violations.
“I felt like my students were being discriminated against,” said Robert Furr, who used to be Polk CTI coordinator before being transferred to a residential center for students with behavioral issues.
Furr said he noticed that some of his special education students were not registered for the vocational classes at Cedartown High School as they had in previous year.
“The regular students are able to get the classes they register for. Why shouldn’t the special education students get the classes they want? Shouldn’t we have equal access? That is what the law states,” Furr said.
After speaking up to a new principal, Furr claims within in days he was transferred out of the school and out of his position.
“He (Robert Furr) was transferred from one site to another due to student needs. He is at the same pay level and he was not demoted. He was not happy when we did it then, and it sounds like he is not happy now,” said William Hunter, the superintendent at the Polk County School District in response.
Hunter added that he was looking out for the best interests of the student.
“My response to that is look at the timing. Robert was removed from the position days after the principal had taken issue with the advocacy that Robert was engaged in,” said Craig Goodmark, who is an attorney representing Furr in his federal lawsuit.
Goodmark claims in the lawsuit the district violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the First and 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1971 and the anti-retaliation provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I would like for the students to have equal access to the program. I would like to go back to the job I’m trained to do,” Furr said.