A Code of Silence, Cover-Up, and Indifference At Penn State, and Henrico County, Virginia Are The Norm In America

Nov 13, 2011 by

Kandise Lucas, PH.D. –

For the past two weeks, the media has inundated the airwaves with the horrific and sickening details of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, one of our nation’s most loved universities, and its football coaching team and legend, Joe Paterno. The entire scandal centers around former coach Gerald Sandusky and the charity that he founded, The Second Mile, which prosecutors claim was the primary “hunting ground” for Sandusky’s young male victims for nearly twenty years.

As I read the Grand Jury report that resulted in Sandusky’s indictment,(see: http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment-1.pdf), I became extremely angry, not at Sandusky, but at those that suspected and witnessed his perverted actions toward children, but said nothing and did nothing.

The twenty-three-page indictment reads like the many complaints, reports, emails, and other documents that have been shared with the leadership of Henrico County Schools and Henrico County in relation to the massive abuse of students with special needs, students of color, and students that are economically disadvantaged within the district at the hands of district employees from central office, to the school board, to the classroom. In every case, the entire county and school district assume their code of silence and indifference and continue to do so to this day as the abuse, neglect, and retaliation by school officials and their “goon-like” attorneys attempt to intimidate and harass the victims into going away.

The Sandusky Grand Jury report outlines a laundry list of individuals who witnessed and suspected the abuse and neglect of children by him, but turned a deaf ear and blind eye in order to keep their job, not go against the institution, or just because they were cowards that felt no obligation or responsibility to be the voice of a voiceless, defenseless, and powerless child that was being abused not only by Sandusky, but by the institution and leaders that served as a haven for him and his pedophilia tendencies.

In Henrico, Virginia, the number of institutions and leaders that have joined in the Code of Silence, Cover-Up, and Indifference is staggering.

Governor McDonnell’s office has been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. Nothing has been done to stop the abuse of innocent children. We guess he is too busy traveling to Israel to help Virginia’ s children.

Attorney General Cucinnelli’s office has been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. Nothing has been done to stop the abuse of innocent children. In fact, his office advised that they did not have the financial or human resources to investigate the abuse. It is also clearly obvious that AG Cuccinelli is more obsessed with taking down President Obama than he is with taking down pedophiles and other abusers within Virginia that destroy the lives of children.

Virginia’s elected officials at the state level have been notified of the abuse and neglect of children with Henrico County Public Schools. They include Congressmen Eric Cantor and Bobby Scott, State Senator Donald McEachin, State Senator Henry Marsh, Delegate Joe Morrissey, Delegate Delores McQuinn, Delegate Jennifer McClellan, Henrico County Board of Supervisors, Richard Glover, Frank Thornton, Patricia O’Bannon, David Kaechele, and James Donati; who recently lost his seat when frustrated parents of abused and mistreated children within Henrico’s Varina district, took to the polls on November 8th. While the federal government has initiated an extensive investigation into the civil rights violations; abuses, and neglect of Henrico’s children, not one elected official within the state hasorganized as much as a town hall meeting for the parents to address the issue.

It is clear that being politically correct and keeping your position is far more important to them than being morally correct and keeping children safe. Furthermore, within Virginia, there are no real consequences for failing to report child abuse when one is fined more for speeding twenty miles over the speed limit than failing to report child abuse. While Virginia has one of the top ranking officials in our nations’s government, Congressman Eric Cantor, the children of Virginia are still being abused and neglected as citizens of this nation.

The Virginia Board of Education has been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico County Public Schools. Nothing has been done to stop the abuse of innocent children. We guess they are too busy chasing after educators that violate standardized testing protocols than those that violate our children through abuse. It is clear that the protection of Virginia’s SOL’s is more of a priority than the protection of Virginia’s children.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright’s office has been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. Nothing has been done to stop the abuse of innocent children. In fact, during an October 20, 2011 meeting, the Assistant Superintendent of Teacher Licensure, Patty Pitts, stated that the Virginia Department of Education does not have the financial or human resources to deal with licensed educators that abuse children, and that the only way that she finds out that an educator may be guilty of abuse if is someone tells her. Perhaps if the VADOE used the $60,000 that they pay annual for Dr. Wright’s professional membership to hire someone to investigate follow-up on child abuse and neglect complaints, then pedophiles would not travel from school district to school district in Virginia for years preying on children. VADOE officials, Doug Cox, Judith Douglas, Sandra Ruffin, Kathleen Harris, and many more, have been fully aware of the ongoing abuse by licensed educators; however, these individuals place the institution, politics, and their positions over the welfare of children; allowing predators to continue to rape and sodomize our children while they cover their eyes and ears; hiding in their offices.

Virginia and Henrico County Social Services office has been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. Nothing has been done to stop the abuse of innocent children. In a November 15, 2010 email, Mary Wilson, CPS Policy Specialist stated that, at the state level, she could do nothing to investigate the abuse of children by school employees. She referred the complaint to local DSS employees; Rita Katzman, Phyl Parris, Gretchen Icard, and Monica Hockaday; who responded in a later email that the reports of abuse did not meet the four validity requirements for initiating an investigation. Evidently the complaints were valid, because less than a seven months after reporting the abuse to them, the educators accused of abuse was arrested and charged WITHOUT their help.

Henrico County Commonweath Attorney Wade Kizer’s office has been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. Nothing has been done to stop the abuse of innocent children. In fact, contrary to what Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Cuccinelli’s claim that Kizer has the authority to investigate teachers that abuse children, Kizer claimed, in a January 9, 2009 email that his office does not investigate crimes unless they are referred from the Henrico Police. Kizer must not have read his own website, http://www.co.henrico.va.us/com-atty/, which clearly states, “the majority of the cases the Commonwealth’s Attorney handles are brought by law enforcement officers, although this office also prosecutes cases initiated by a citizen’s complaint.” In recent civil rights lawsuit against the district, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Tokarz issued a response, as reflected in court records, stating that school district officials had no “legal” obligation to advise a Richmond District Court that one of its former employees, Kim Arcell Taylor, was forced to resign due to child neglect, along with other acts of professional misconduct.

As a result of the district’s failure to come forward, Taylor was successful in arguing and committing perjury, claiming that he had never abused or neglected any students with special needs at John Rolfe Middle School. Taylor is the same teacher that was driven home by John Rolfe’s Principal, Andrew Armstrong, and former Assistant Principal, John Rockenbrod, after he was suspected of being under the influence while in the classroom with students with special needs. During an Office of Civil Rights investigation, both Armstrong and Rockenbrod admitted to driving Taylor and his vehicle home as opposed to calling the police, which they were required by law to do. Their improper actions resulted in Taylor being able to continue to mistreat students at the school.

Henrico County Police have been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. The common trend is that once a complaint or allegation is filed involving a school district employee with the police, no further actions are taken. While in one case, the report was referred to the department’s Special Victim’s Unit, SVU, and Lt. Mertz of that department indicated that Principal Arthur Raymond would be investigated for conspiracy to commit cyberbullying, failing to report child abuse, and violating the confidentiality of a minor; no further actions have been communicated by SVU. Lt. Mertz advised that he was going to consult with Wade Kizer’s office, so it can be safely assumed that he ran into the Code of Silence and Cover-Up.

Many of Henrico’s faith-based and civil rights leaders have been notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico County Public Schools. Their silence has been deafening. Dr. Lance Watson, pastor of The Saint Paul’s Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in Henrico County; and Pastor Michael Jones, pastor of Village of Faith Ministries, who held their services within one of Henrico’s schools, were both repeatedly notified of the ongoing abuse and neglect of children within Henrico Schools. Some of the victims were even members of their congregations. To date, no action by either one of these leaders has been taken to either gather the families together or serve as an advocate on behalf of their children that have been and continue to be victimized by school employees. It is clear that these shepherds feel no obligation to protect the weakest and most vulnerable sheep among them. They and other faith-based leaders have also forgotten that it has always been the church, especially within the African-American community, that has stood for the voiceless and fought for the powerless to ensure social justice.

Both the Virginia NAACP and the Henrico County Branch of the NAACP were notified of the abuse and neglect of children within Henrico for several years. Their silence has been deafening as well. In fact, when state Executive Director King Salim Khalfani was notified of the abuse, he indicated that the NAACP did not have the funds to address the issue and referred the families to Kent Willis of the Virginia ACLU. Forsaking their own mission even more, outraged parents of students that had been victimized by reported that former Henrico County NAACP President Tyee Davenport, who had been repeatedly advised of the abuse and neglect of Henrico’s children, praised not only former Superintendent Fred Morton, who assisted in the abuse cover up and retaliation of those that reported the abuse, during a town hall meeting, but that the county’s NAACP Educational Chair reportedly turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the scandal due to having business-based ties with the district for her child care business.

Drussilla Bridgeforth, the present president of the Henrico County NAACP, attended the Office of Civil Right’s two-day Community Forum, as did Senator Donald McEaching and School Board Chairman Lamont Bagby, that was held in order to hear from the parents of Henrico County Public Schools regarding the rampant civil rights violations, denial of educational opportunities, and acts of retaliation and intimidation by district officials. Bridgeforth stated that the NAACP planned to hold follow-up town hall meetings regarding the issues. That was in May 2011. To date, no town hall meetings have been held.

Several local television, radio, and newspaper media sources have been advised of the extensive civil rights, abuse, and neglect of students within in Henrico Schools. While several have initiated follow-up; there are others, due to rumored affiliations with Henrico County Schools, that have either refused to follow-up; failed to acknowledge the scandal, and have even been silenced by the district’s PR person, Mychael Dickerson, who was previously employed as an anchor for one of the local television stations.

Now, on to Henrico County Public Schools. For nearly five years, each of the district’s school board members; Lamont Bagby, Lisa Marshall, John Montgomery, Diana Winston, and Linda McBride have been repeatedly advised of the abuse, neglect, and civil rights violations being committed by school employee against children within the district. Each of the board members are also fully aware of, and at times, have even taken part in the effort to silence, retaliate, and intimidate those district employees, parents, and students that come forward to report the abuse and neglect.

Former Superintendent Fred Morton, and his replacement, Patrick Russo, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Patrick Kinlaw, School Board Attorney, Melissa Valesquez; former Director of Human Resources, Philip Jepson; Assistant Director of HR, Nancy Jones-Oltijenbruns, former Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Pamela Bell; Executive Director of Secondary Education, Eric Jones; former Director of Middle School, Marilyn Royal; Director of Secondary Education, David Myers; Director of Disciplinary Review Carolyn Young; Director of Exceptional Education, Bondy Shay Gibson; Assistant Director of Exceptional Education, Paul Hopkins, Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Ed Buzzelli; Coordinator for Safety and Security, Christine Bailor; Executive Director of Communications and Community Outreach, Mychael Dickerson, and many others have been repeatedly advised of the abuse and civil rights violations that are rampant within the school district, many of which each of these individuals took part in and/or covered up.

As opposed to complying with the state and federal laws that demand that these individuals, as licensed educators, report any and all reports of child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities; the district’s leaders and school board have opted to waste taxpayers’ monies by retaining attorneys from international law firms like Reed Smith, in order to further terrorize, intimidate, and retaliate against parents and educators that report abuse. In fact, as any employee within Henrico Schools will confirm, those employed by the district are forced to choose between their jobs and protecting children within the district. Unfortunately for Henrico’s children, a majority of the district employees choose their jobs over the welfare of children.

In May 2011, Reed Smith Law Firm, Attorney Patrick Andriano, had no problem demanding that an African-American mother of an autistic child send her son back to Moody Middle School after the mother had reported that her son was being abused by school employees and Henrico Police deemed it appropriate to launch an investigation into the actions of Principal Arthur Raymond for covering up abuse and engaging in cyberbullying. When the mother refused to send her student back to what was clearly an abusive and unsafe school, Andriano advised her that the district would be filing criminal charges against her for truancy. Both Andriano and the district refused nearly a year of requests from the mother to investigate Moody’s school employees for abusing her student. Parents and advocates continue to report that the district exploits the criminal justice system by knowingly filing false truancy against parents of students with special needs that report abuse and civil rights violations of their students. Recently, Principals Arthur Raymond of Moody Middle School and Traci Omohundro of Varina High School. along with School Social Worker like Rebecca Goehler; have initiated what they know to be false criminal charges against African-American mothers of autistic students that have medical documentation supporting their claims that Henrico Schools are unsafe environments for their children. The district, Mehfoud, and Andriano have all repeatedly rejected the documentation from medical professionals; demanding that the students return to the abusive schools.

In September 2011, another Reed Smith Law Firm lawyer, Attorney Kathleen Mehfoud, also demanded that the autistic student, who had been forced to be privately tutored during the last part of the school year for his own safety, repeat the eighth grade as further retaliation against the family for reporting the abuse. Despite the fact that the student passed all of his classes, Mehfoud stated that it was an “administrative” decision to force the student with special needs to repeat the eighth grade. When the parent inquired as to why the district did not follow its own policies regarding the retention of students with special needs, Mehfoud advised that they were not require to since the decision was made at the administrative level. To date, the abuse reports have yet to be referred to social services, however, the mother has been charged by the district with truancy for refusing to send her son to an environment that any reasonable person would consider unsafe and abusive. It should also be noted that over the past five years, Henrico County Public schools has spent nearly a million dollars for outside legal service to do just what Mehfoud and Andriano are doing as they cover up, retaliate, and intimidate victimized families. The district has even resorted to the illegal act of permitting Mehfoud and Andriano to run special education meetings in an attempt to further bully parents that stand up for the welfare of their children. Throughout the meetings, both attorneys violate district, state, and federal laws with no regard for the impact on the student, while school employees generally remain silent during the meetings; daring not to challenge either attorney even when they violate the law.

Mehfoud has reportedly attempted to deny parents of advocates the right to record educational meetings, and has even abruptly ended meetings, then falsified documentation regarding what transpired during the meetings. There is also evidence that supports the claim that Attorney Mehfoud is the author of illegally issued ban letters that have been sent to parents and advocates that report and advocate against child abuse by school officials. While the district does not hesitate to issue ban letters to those that report and expose the abuse, they have no problem making settlement agreements and promoting those employees that commit the abuse. Many parents and advocates have identified both Mehfoud and Andriano as Henrico School district “goons” that will violate any law,

When our society asks, “How could the Penn State Abuse Scandal” happen in America when we claim to be a country that protects and nurtures our children? The response is very simple, the Code of Silence, Cover-Up, and Indifference is as much part of our cultural fabric as cell phones and automobiles. Despite hundreds of people within top positions of influence within Virginia having been made aware of the abuse, neglect, and retaliation that continues to be prevalent within Henrico County Public Schools, the abuse has not stop. The neglect has not stop. The intimidation has not stop. The systematic conspiracy to cover up has not stop. In fact, as is normally the case, when courageous students, parents, educators, and advocates come forward, the abuse, intimidation, and retaliation increases, just as it has for those that have come forward in Henrico County Schools.

One would think that with all of these individuals being aware of the abuse of voiceless and defenseless children, someone would be compelled to do something to protect them from those that promised to nurture them, but have done nothing but abuse and neglect them. What is even more disheartening is that everyone of the above-mentioned individuals will not hesitate to condemn the leadership of Penn State for their gross negligence while excusing and rationalizing their immoral, criminal, and grossly negligent acts of abuse, neglect, retaliation, and cover-up.

With leaders like these, one can clearly see how and why those that sexually, emo-tionally, and physically abuse our children find places of refuge within our children’s schools. The depth of their, and our society’s hypocrisy when they claim to be for children is nauseating. Recently, after nearly a year of legal maneuvers, Henrico County Public Schools lost its effort to have a federal case dismissed involving claims that they retaliated against a special educator that refused to stop reporting and documenting abuse and neglect by other district employees.

I am that special educator that not only refused to stop reporting the abuse, but have never stop reporting the abuse, and have since been banned, and retaliated against in many ways by Henrico School officials, elected officials, faith-based leaders, civil rights leaders, and many others. Despite the unethical actions of attorneys like Tom Tokarz, Patrick Andriano, Melissa Valesquez, and Kathleen Mehfoud, the movement to rid Henrico Schools of abusers and those that love and protect them is growing exponentially, and it cannot be stopped.

One cannot think of how many children could have been; can be saved from sadistic pedophiles if those in positions of authority and influence fight for our children with the same tenacity as they fight to cover it up and dismiss it. Why these officers of the court are not outraged and aggressively fighting to keep pedophiles, drug addicts, and other criminal elements out of our classrooms is unfathomable to me. Why they are being paid my tax dollars and yours in order to silence, intimidate, and retaliate against those that oppose child abuse within our schools by school employees is even more of a mystery.

The question is Henrico County, as we can presume that it was at Penn State, is not who knew but who did not know that innocent children were being abused by those in authority within institutions whose God-given mission is to protect and nuture them. Another question is not who reported the abuse, but who did not report the abuse and still has not reported it to this day. Unfortunately, in both cases, defenseless and powerless children and their families, continue to be raped of their dignity and robbed of their right to be in a safe and secure environment; free of abuse and exploitation.

One thing is for sure, pedophiles, abusers, and other criminal elements that find safe havens and welcoming arms within our schools owe each of these leaders a great deal of gratitude for allowing them turn our children’s classrooms into hunting grounds for their next victims where they not only have unlimited access to our children, but guaranteed protection and defense in the event that they are caught.

If you are a past or present parent, student, educator, or administrator that has been victimized by Henrico County Public Schools or has witnessed the abuse of children within the school district, please contact Attorney Charlotte Hodges at 804-475-5485 or email her at biglegal@comcast.net.

Remember that you are not alone, you do not have to fight this corrupt system on your own, and that there are those that are willing to stand up and fight to protect Henrico’s children no matter the cost, and even when those that should have protected our children have failed to do so and have no intention of correcting their grossly negligent mistakes.

Never be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel

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