Complaints spur Charleston County schools to investigate food services—
Local civil rights activists joined forces with former Charleston County School District food service workers Friday morning to protest allegations of discrimination and wage theft within the district’s nutrition services department.
In an open letter to district Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, activists from the National Action Network demanded the removal of Walter Campbell, executive director of nutrition services, for allegedly favoring white males over well-qualified minority and female workers. They claim Campbell promoted white males to managerial and supervisory positions and rewarded them with better kitchen equipment at predominantly white schools.
On Thursday, NAN and North Charleston branch NAACP leaders met with Postlewait, who agreed to look into their complaints. District spokeswoman Erica Taylor said administrators “plan to investigate claims of unfair and disrespectful treatment of CCSD employees” and work with NAN toward an “immediate resolution.”
“This is high priority for Dr. Postlewait,” Taylor said.
In the letter, NAN also accuses the nutrition services department of withholding wages, miscalculating overtime pay, making racial slurs, and serving better food at majority-white schools than at mostly black, Title 1 schools.
“It appears Mr. Walter Campbell and his supervisory leadership team has discriminated against food service employees and taken advantage of their lack of knowledge of labor laws and harassment policies,” said Tina Reddy, NAN assistant state coordinator, reading from the letter in front of the district’s North Charleston operations center. “We have reason to believe that prejudice (of) Mr. Campbell has devalued minority and female employees on an almost daily basis, including making employees feeling degraded, bullied, harassed.”
Taylor said Campbell would not comment on the allegations.
No current school district food service workers participated in Friday’s protest for fear of losing their jobs, said NAN state coordinator James Johnson, but the civil rights group has received 33 statements from current district food service employees. Their statements complain about Campbell and the quality of food in Title 1 schools, Johnson said.
“Black folks have been suffering since slavery in Charleston. We are just not taking it anymore, so we will spend our dollars outside Charleston County if Mr. Walter Campbell is still in office after 30 days,” Johnson said. “We want him gone. We will not tolerate racism and discrimination anymore.”
Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.