Ex-learning specialist gets $335K from UNC in settlement to end 1 lawsuit in academic scandal

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CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — The former North Carolina learning specialist who questioned literacy levels of Tar Heels athletes received $335,000 in the settlement to end her lawsuit against the school.

Mary Willingham sued last summer, saying she was demoted and UNC retaliated against her after she raised concerns — including low reading levels for athletes and "paper classes" requiring no class attendance that helped keep athletes eligible — before ultimately resigning.

The settlement document states the $335,000 included attorney fees and $40,000 in backpay. Last month's settlement agreement includes the state university system, also a defendant.

Willingham sought to return to her job, but it wasn't part of the deal.

UNC still faces fallout from the academic-fraud scandal, including multiple lawsuits from athletes, accreditation questions and a reopened NCAA investigation into academic misconduct.

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