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updated: 7/9/2013 7:29 AM

District 300 charter school operator accused of discrimination

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A former principal at Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove accused school operators of discrimination when they fired her in October 2011.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights recently found "substantial evidence of discrimination" after reviewing the evidence and filed a case with the Illinois Human Rights Commission on behalf of the principal last month.

Gwenda Walters, who worked at the school for only a month, said in her complaint that Larry Fuhrer, CEO of Northern Kane Educational Corp., fired her because of her race, which is black. She said the official reason given was that she was "not a good fit" for the school and didn't return a parent's phone call.

Walters further stated in her complaint that the previous principal had a comparable job performance but was not fired.

Northern Kane Educational Corp., got its charter from Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 and opened Cambridge Lakes in 2007. It now serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Fuhrer declined to comment on the pending case.

"We expect to have the claim dismissed," Fuhrer said, "but since it's considered open we can't comment."

In its charter renewal application, Northern Kane mentioned hiring Walters for the 2011-12 academic year but said she made a "poor personal choice when she committed to come to Cambridge Lakes and reversed her course." The document says she found her lengthy commute "unbearable."

Walters could not be reached Monday to comment further on her exit from Cambridge Lakes.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights is the first stop for claims of discrimination in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Once the department finds evidence of discrimination, complainants have the option of taking the case to the Human Rights Commission or circuit court. Walters opted for the commission.

According to the commission spokesman Mike Claffey, the entire review process could take several years and include a preliminary hearing, discovery phase and then trial.

District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy said Fuhrer brought the case to his attention but said the district has not taken any steps in response to the allegations.

Northern Kane's charter for Cambridge Lakes is valid through 2014.

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