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July 27, 2003

Group probes deaf school for racism

From: Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC - Jul 27, 2003

Employees claim discrimination is commonplace

The Associated Press

WILSON, N.C. -Employees from the Eastern School for the Deaf and a state facility that serves the mentally ill have asked members of the state Legislative Black Caucus to investigate allegations of racism.

The employees made the request during a special town-hall meeting held by the group of House and Senate legislators. More than 300 people gathered last week at St. Marks AME Church in Rocky Mount to speak with the 14 legislators.

Inez Banks, who has worked as a nurse at the school for more than 23 years, told legislators that after losing a 1999 discrimination lawsuit, the school is still mired in racial discrimination.

"The problems are there; racism has reared its ugly head," Banks said.

Accusations of racism were also made by employees of the N.C. Special Care Center, which provides services for people who are mentally ill and have other health problems.

The workers said black employees are being systematically fired and white employees are freely using racial epithets at work.

State officials who oversee the deaf school said they investigated but were unable to validate a sole complaint earlier this year that an employee had used a racial epithet.

Cyndie Bennett, director of the office of educational services for the Department of Health and Human Services, said school and department officials have taken a number of steps to respond to concerns about racism since the 1999 discrimination lawsuit.

She cited quarterly meetings where employees air grievances and pay raises implemented following a salary equity study.

© 2003 The Sun News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.