BY A.J. DUGGER III
Former Williamson County teacher Melanie Lemon filed a lawsuit on Friday against Williamson County Schools, citing defamation, breach of contract, and wrongful termination, among the charges.
According to the lawsuit, Lemon was “bullied, stalked, intimidated, and defamed into a forced resignation” from her job as a second-grade teacher at Walnut Grove Elementary School in Franklin on May 12.
Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney, Assistant Superintendent Denise Goodwin, Williamson County Schools, and Walnut Grove Principal Katheryn Donnelly are listed as the defendants.
According to the lawsuit, the problems began in August of 2016 when Lemon was reportedly blamed by Donnelly for upsetting a student’s parent without proof or cause.
In the fall of 2016, a co-worker’s child was diagnosed with leukemia. Lemon presented a prayer blanket to the parent and her child at the hospital, and assisted with a fundraiser selling T-shirts. Donnelly granted permission, and both women agreed that the fundraiser would take place outside of school. When Lemon asked the bookkeeper for the list of the class sizes, the suit says Donnelly bullied her, claiming that what Lemon was doing was illegal, despite the fact that she never requested names.
Lemon was suspended for three days without pay just before Easter weekend for allegations of child abuse. According to the suit, Lemon “spent an excruciating weekend with no knowledge of what the accusation was about.”
She later discovered a parent claimed she physically harmed a child by grabbing the child forcefully in the hallway. The police did not investigate and the child’s parents did not make a complaint.
The suit states that “the school investigation was incomplete, improper, and without merit. Even so, Ms. Lemon was suspended without pay for three days; which is the maximum allowed without a full hearing in front of neutral persons.”
Once the investigation of the abuse was finally complete, Lemon’s teaching performance was monitored by cameras and a retired teacher who sat in the room. The lawsuit states “the school monitored her on the cameras, noted her every move and otherwise treated her as a prisoner.”
Lemon claims she was also allegedly targeted, timed, bullied and chastised when she worked on emails to parents.
Lemon resigned on May 12, 2017, and in just two days, an online petition supporting her reached 1,800 signatures.
Lemon, an elementary educator of 14 years, also claims in the suite that at a school board meeting after Lemon’s resignation, “one speaker in support of her was pulled outside and threatened that if she spoke, Melanie Lemon would never work in Williamson County and ‘if you go through with this,’ she will never work in the state of Tennessee again.”
Cory Mason, assistant communications director of Williamson County Schools, refused to comment on the district’s reaction to the lawsuit.