DeKalb County teachers seek class action lawsuit on frozen fun - CBS46 News

DeKalb County teacher speaks out on pension fund freeze

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DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

A retired DeKalb County teacher said she would like to join a lawsuit filed by two other teachers who have sued the district over their frozen retirement funds.

A judge is expected to rule soon on whether to give the pension fund lawsuit class-action status.

"I think I'm almost beyond angry," said retired special education teacher Nelda Henderson. "If I had known that there were two people, I think I would have tried to join them if I could."

A teacher and school psychologist filed a lawsuit against the district, alleging the school system illegally froze their pension funds in 2009. They are now asking that other educators be allowed to join the lawsuit.

"They didn't want this just for themselves," attorney John Salter said. "They wanted this on behalf of all the teachers. They felt all of the teachers have been harmed."

Henderson said the district does not contribute to employees' Social Security fund, so in addition to the freeze on her district fund, it reduced the amount of money she was eligible for from the government.

"As teachers, we don't get into it for the money, but we certainly have to live," Henderson said.

Salters said the district failed to give employees a two-year notice of the freeze, as policy requires. He also said the school board promised the 2009 freeze would last only one year. It is still in effect four years later.

"If you make a promise, you've got to keep it," Salter said.

A former school board member, who voted on the original policy in 1979, agreed the district has violated its terms.

"I felt that our motion made at that time would be honored with future boards but they just didn't honor that," said Joe Willingham, who is now an insurance agent.

The Georgia Federation of Teachers is closely following the lawsuit.

"There is no way we can take care of kids without taking care of teachers," GFT President Verdaillia Turn said. "Every teacher should be up in arms honestly."

A DeKalb County school spokesman told CBS Atlanta News the district cannot comment on pending litigation.

Henderson said if a judge grants the case class-action status, she is anxious to join the lawsuit.

"It is a lot of money. A lot of money," said Henderson.

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