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AN OPEN LETTER TO DR. PATRICK RUSSO AND HENRICO COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD TO REPEAL THEIR DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL POLICIES

Oct 2, 2011 by

Dear Superintendent Patrick Russo, Chairman Lamont Bagby, Vice-Chairwoman Diana Winston, John Montgomery, Lisa Marshall, Linda McBride, and School Board Attorney Melissa Valesquez:

DR. PATRICK RUSSO

 

The United States Armed Forces have repealed their oppressive, discriminatory, outdated, and punitive mandate of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Unfortunately, Henrico County Public Schools did not follow suit, nor did they receive the memo that Brown v. Board of Education was decided by the Supreme Court of our land over fifty years ago, solidifying the illegality of school districts denying educational civil rights to all children. The fact of the matter is that if you are economically-disadvantaged, of color, and/or a special needs student in Henrico; you and your family, have most likely, had your civil rights violated by Henrico County Public School system repeatedly and unapologetically.
Having said that, on behalf of families of color, families with special needs children, and families that are economically disadvantaged, we are demanding that this district immediately repeal its atrocious and terroristic practice of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that has been and continues to be imposed upon us, at our own expense as taxpaying parents, and to the emotional, physical, and educational detriment of our children.
We no longer grant this district permission to pay the salaries of criminal elements in the classroom, boardroom, and central office who emotionally, physically, and sexually abuse our innocent and defenseless children; nor do we grant permission for this district to misappropriate funds that should be used for the educational services of our children, into the bank accounts of big law firm attorneys with questionable ethical practices and even greater questionable character that do not hesitate to disregard the civil rights laws of the land if it serves the purpose of the district, even if their actions result in severe harm to our children’s minds, bodies, spirits, and souls.
Superintendent Russo, your staff, and the school board members consistently communicate the message that we, as people of color and as families with special needs dare not ASK for or expect equal educational opportunities, high educational quality, compliance with special education laws, compliance with civil rights laws, or even compliance with the Constitution of our land.
Instead, Chairman Bagby, you, as an African-American man and leader of the school board, along with Ms. Winston, Ms. Marshall, Ms. McBride, and Mr. Montgomery, ruthlessly demand that we are to just settle for and accept as the norm unsafe schools, incompetent and abusive school leaders, outdated and insufficient resources,untrained and uncaring teachers, unsanitary and inhumane conditions, and crumbling buildings….then we are to say “thank you for crumbs that you have given us and our children!”
Attorney Valesquez, in direct contradiction to the law and evidently with your approval, Henrico County Public Schools consistently sends the message that we, as people of color and as families with special needs are not to TELL if our children are being sexually molested, physically attacked, emotionally abused, or even educationally neglected by employees of this district. We are just to accept the sexual, physical, emotional, and educational abuse and neglect without question and without challenge or else face acts of retaliation and intimidation that would make the Mafia blush by school leaders who misappropriate our own tax monies in order to religously carry out the systematic and institutionalized terrorism that makes Saddam Hussein look like a school yard bully. It is clear that as the school board’s attorney, your goal is not to protect the interests of our children or families. Instead, your job, at our expense, is to cover-up, protect, and defend the gross negligence of school leaders at any and all costs, and by any means necessary, even if the children of Henrico County become casualties of this civil rights war for justice and equity. It is understandable as to why, at one point, you were considering resigning from the district because of what you were asked to do. Evidently, your conscience got the best of you. Unfortunately, for our children, you are no longer permitting your conscience to hold you accountable for being moral and ethical.
Superintendent Russo, the depth of corruption, unethical actions, child and parental abuse/exploitation, civil rights, and over all human rights violations, as well as rampant criminal actions within this district, is at a level of stench that is just as suffocating as the stench from the bodies of lynched African-American men during a very dark period within this country’s history that each of you seems to be determined to return us and our children to. You have repeatedly condoned the illegal banning of parents and advocates, denying them due process without an appeal process, that question and confront the corruption of your administration, even if you have to falsify the documentation to do so. Dr. Russo, it is a testament to the hypocritical nature of your administration when it is common practice to “ban” the parents and advocates that report abuse, neglect, and discrimination, but transfer, settle with, and even promote those that commit the abuse, neglect, and discrimination.
Chairman Bagby, it is also a clear statement of this district’s undying loyalty to those that abuse, neglect, and exploit our children and their families when you enter illegal settlement agreements that commit to openly violating Mandated Reporter Laws that require the reporting of teachers that mistreat children like Kim Taylor, keep an accused pedophile employed as a teacher and coach when the FBI had him under investigation for a year like Ty Levy, promote an accused pedophile from the classroom to central office like Neil French, hire Paul Hopkins as Assistant Special Education Director when he is facing a $10 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit in York County Schools for failing to protect a bullied student who committed suicide when he could no longer take the abuse; and even hiring you, as superintendent, after you misappropriated funds that were suppose to be used to remediate children, attempted to cover it up by altering records, and faced disciplinary action for it in Moore County, North Carolina, based on their school board minutes.
How can any of you be examples of character, integrity, law abiding, contributing citizens, or positive role models in any way for the children of Henrico County Public Schools? Furthermore, it also speaks volumes as to your own judgement when you can allow your own children to attend school under the leadership of Principal Arthur Raymond, who is not only routinely degrading to his own staff members, but has a documented record of being verbally abusive and threatening toward parents, falsifying documentation, and even denying educational services to an African-American male student as retaliation for his mother advocating on his behalf. Mr. Bagby and Mr. Montgomery have similar judgement issues when they condone the extreme levels of corruption, abuse, civil rights violations, and gross negligence within the same district that their own children attend.
Superintendent Russo, Chairman Bagby, and Attorney Valesquez, each of you is fully aware of numerous illegal, unethical, and even immoral acts that are being carried out against Henrico’s children and families at your order and/or hand. Each of you seems to also be in full support of funneling taxpaying dollars to attorneys like Kathleen Mehfoud and Patrick Andriano of The Reed Smith Law Firm, who do not hesitate to threaten, intimidate, and even trample on the civil rights of Henrico’s families that are poor, of color, and special needs. Furthermore, Attorney Valesquez, you, as a former employee of The Virginia Department of Education, are fully aware of rights afforded to families under FERPA, but you, Special Education Director Bondy Gibson, and Public Relations Director Mychael Dickerson, blatantly and repeatedly violate the law by denying families with special needs students access to their own student’s records by charging anywhere from $1,500-$3,000 for parents to obtain a copy of their student’s file. Your actions are similar to the efforts of many Southern states in the early 1950’s, when they attempted to violate federal laws by denying African-Americans their right to vote through the imposing of illegal and excessive Poll Taxes whose sole purpose was to prevent a free people from exercising their God-given rights as human beings and citizens of our nation.

Superintendent Russo and Chairman Bagby, one would think that after the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights initiated an investigation into the district’s systematic denial of educational opportunities and civil rights violations against students of color and students with special needs last October, the district would have attempted to clean up its act. Instead, under your leadership, the abuse, neglect, retaliation, and discrimination have increased exponentially as you attempt to silence those that dare to exercise their rights as American citizens in holding each of you accountable and fighting for the future of our children.

Let us be clear, at this point, the district does not have enough fingers to plug the holes that are forming in the dam that has held this system in place for decades as it has systematically denied our children their civil right to an education. Your attempts to do so are not only futile, but they are exposing each of you for who and what you really are…..enemies of our children, enemies of our families, and enemies of our communities.

Despite all that has been shared, we do agree with Superintendent Russo’s goal of Henrico County Public Schools being a model and premier school district. As more and more parents and students find the courage to come forward, as more and more class action suits are filed by honorable and ethical attorneys for gross negligence, abuse, educational neglect, racial discrimination, disability harassment, special education violations, etc., we will make each of you an example for the world to see, of what happens when a community takes their schools back and does not settle for negotiating with or regulating evil, but eliminating it by holding each of you accountable for failing our children, our families, and our communities.
To any and all families that have been victimized by Henrico County Public Schools, especially families with special needs children, in the present or the past, please contact Attorney Charlotte P. Hodges at 804-475-5484 or email her legal team at biglegal@comcast.net.
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