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Civil Rights Investigation Finds Sidney City School Discriminated Against Minorities

— September 15, 2021

The Sidney City School district is being scrutinized after a civil rights investigation found it may have discriminated against minorities.

After launching an investigation, the Civil Rights Commission determined the Sidney City School district “engaged in unlawful discrimination for both age and race when choosing to bring back certain employees last year.According to the results from the commission’s investigation, the school district eliminated all aides in the district in 2020. Shortly after that announcing that decision, the district brought back some of those aides, though none were minorities.

Image of Children at a Daycare
Children in a classroom; image courtesy of Airman 1st Class Hunter Brady via Wikimedia Commons,

When commenting on the matter, ShaRhonda Johnson, a former aide for Sidney schools, said:

“My first expression I was in shock, I just stared at my phone like this is really happening and then I just broke down and cried. It made me question myself. What did I do wrong in my job.”

Another former aide, Erika Foster-Wheeler, also chimed in and said, “When I received the news I cried. I was like, I couldn’t believe it. Everybody said you’ll only lose your job if you do something dumb and then it’s like ‘what I did?’” 

The investigation found that the district’s decision to call back several aides was “based on a ranking system that was given to school principals.” Apparently, the aides were all “were ranked as a 1, 2, or 3 and were based on things like ‘are they a great Sidney School employee regardless of position’ and ‘what is their attendance like.’” The problem, the investigation found, was that the “ranking system was subjective” because Johnson and Foster-Wheeler both ranked as twos. Despite having “continuing contracts, neither were recalled or rehired while the district brought back white aides who ranked as two and threes.”

Johnson said:

“When you found out such and such was kept over you. Then that’s when the questions hit. Why were they kept over me when I know I did this better than them. That’s why the questions ran because I just had a good evaluation this year so why was I let go?” 

She added that she felt as though the district discriminated against her because of her race. Foster-Wheeler agrees and said, “I felt that way.” Johnson added:

“Yes, I very well do because there were people that were kept that came in later than me. There were people whose contracts were up where I was on a continuous contract who was kept over me. There was people who had bad evaluations that was kept over me. Why me?” 

To make matters worse, data from 2018 showed that “6.4% of the school staff at Sidney City Schools were from minority groups,” but in 2020, that number was 1.7%. It’s important to note that about 13% of Sidney’s population is made up of minority groups, and “in the schools nearly 22 percent of the students are minorities.

Foster-Wheeler and Johnson felt compelled to come forward with their concerns because they care about their community and love the students. Foster-Wheeler said:

“Even if I don’t go back to the schools anymore. I don’t want somebody else with a different color or different race they do them the same thing they do to us because it was wrong.”

Johnson added:

“I want the people in the community to know that we’re not doing this because we want something out of it. We want a wrong fixed.”


Civil rights investigation finds probable instances of racial, age discrimination at Sidney schools

Commission: Probable cause found in five complaints

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