Former Horry County Schools special education teacher sues district, officials

A former Horry County Schools special education teacher has filed suit against the school district, the school board and some district officials, alleging he was retaliated against for advocating for students including those he taught.

The lawsuit was filed May 2 by Richard Hathaway, who taught at Palmetto Bays Elementary School in Myrtle Beach until 2012. In addition to the school board and school district, defendants named in the suit include Dottie Brown, executive director, elementary education; Traci Hogan, executive director of federal programs; Jeff Riddle, former chief finance and human services officer; Ruth Lilly, coordinator, special education; Superintendent Cindy Elsberry; and Cindy Ambrose, chief academic officer.

Hathaway alleges that he had successful results in his classroom using educational programs that were appropriate for his students, but he was instructed to replace his programs with district-approved programs that were not appropriate for the students. According to the suit, Hathaway’s effort to take his concerns to the school board and the S.C. Department of Education and to help a parent of a student file a complaint with the department, resulted in harassment and intimidation by the defendants.

The school district has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.

“We are in receipt of the complaint and are in the process of formulating an answer,” said Teal Harding, spokeswoman for the district.

Hathaway could not be contacted for comment. Calls to his attorney, Preston Brittain, were not returned.

Hathaway alleges he suffered and continues to suffer injuries, including mental anguish and damage to his reputation, as a result of the defendants’ actions. The lawsuit said he was advised by his doctor not to return to work because of stressful conditions, and that he was forced to retire as a result of the retaliatory conduct.

Hathaway has requested a jury trial and is seeking actual damages of $300,000.