Berkeley Co. middle school principal accused of racially harassing Asian employee

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 1:09 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - Newly released personnel records show the former principal of Berkeley County’s Marrington Middle School was demoted from her position in May after an investigation revealed she made racially insensitive comments and gestures towards an Asian employee, mistreated some students, and created a culture of fear and intimidation for employees inside the school.

A letter from the district’s former Superintendent, Dr. Eddie Ingram, said Dara Harrop admitted to most of the allegations, however she later contested some of the investigation’s findings.

“Your comments belittled [an Asian employee] by referring to the size of her eyes and could be considered harassment on the basis of race,” the Superintendent’s final letter to Harrop stated. “You admitted making the comment and said you had apologized to [the Asian employee] that same day. You also said you were embarrassed by your actions and agreed they were unprofessional and inappropriate.”

It’s not clear exactly what Harrop said to the employee, however an earlier letter from Ingram said Harrop admitted to using her fingers to make slanted eyes towards the Asian employee and made a joke about the size of the employee’s eyes, among other things.

“The investigation uncovered other mistreatment of this employee by you, including shooting rubber bands at her, taking her chair, and forcing her [sic] stand while doing Safe School testing, and making fun of her for not knowing the answers,” a May 21 letter from Ingram stated.

Harrop admitted to those allegations, however she challenged their nature during a follow-up conversation with Ingram.

“When I asked you about that incident, you admitted it and said you had a habit of shooting rubber bands at objects in your office, including a Diet Coke can that an employee later placed in the front office. You described your actions as playful and stated you and your office staff, often joke around in the office,” Ingram wrote in a July 26 letter.

Other allegations uncovered during the district’s investigation included Harrop referring to an African-American student as being a “thug,” telling a male student he “did not have the balls” to do something, and Harrop often screaming or raising her voice at students. The May 21 letter from Ingram said Harrop admitted to the conduct during the investigation.

Also, many employees who were interviewed during the investigation stated they were intimidated by Harrop’s actions and feared retaliation for speaking up about their concerns.

“The comments and concerns of these employees suggest a lack of leadership at Marrington Middle School that has created a culture of fear and intimidation, consistent with the manner in which you treated the employee and students discussed above,” the May 21 letter stated.

Harrop’s response was that she was surprised her staff felt uncomfortable around her. A July 26 letter from Ingram stated Harrop believed she had worked hard to bring all staff together since her arrival at Marrington.

In May, Ingram removed Harrop as principal of Marrington Middle School and reassigned her to St. Stephen Middle School to assist its principal for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.

Ingram also initially demoted Harrop to a teaching assignment for the 2021-2022 school year.

However, after Harrop’s appeal of Ingram’s decision, the former Superintendent changed his decision.

“You asked that I consider giving you a chance to redeem yourself by reassigning you to an assistant principal position rather than a teaching position. You also said you were willing to participate in any training the District might require,” Ingram stated. “I have concluded that your actions are not reflective of your history with the District. Based on that conclusion, it is my decision that you should be reassigned to an assistant principal for the 2021-2022 school year, with the understanding that you will enroll in and successfully complete a course in diversity and cultural awareness. You should also be aware that, if there are any future incidents in which you interact with staff or students in an unprofessional manner, your future employment with Berkeley County School District will be negatively impacted.”

Harrop was reassigned as an assistant principal at Stratford High School.

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