Lucas v. Henrico County Schools: Multi-Million Dollar Settlement Offer On The Table

Nov 24, 2011 by

After being advised to hold a settlement meeting within the next fifty days by Fourth Circuit Court Federal Judge Robert Payne’s November 11, 2011, court order, Kandise Lucas, a former special educator with Henrico County Public Schools, and the school district are in the process of considering a multi-million dollar settlement as a means of resolving the January 2011 civil rights lawsuit that Lucas filed against the district when they retaliated against her for documenting and reporting child abuse, neglect, and discrimination against students by school employees.  For over four years, Lucas repeatedly documented and reported the abuse of children with special needs and the effort to cover it up to the Virginia Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education.

In May 2011, The Office of Civil Rights dispatched a team of investigators to Henrico County in order to hold community forums for families whose students have been victimized by school employees.   During the two-day forum, parents reported repeated instances of retaliation, intimidation, and civil rights violations by school district employees and their attorneys when they exercised their rights and reported the physical abuse and educational neglect of their children.  One parent even stated that the district filed false truancy charges against her when she refused to send her autistic son back to Moody Middle School after the school district refused to investigate the reports of abuse and covered up the misconduct of Principal Arthur Raymond and other district employees that were under investigation by Lt. Mertz of Henrico County Police’s Special Victim’s Unit for failing to report abuse, conspiracy to commit cyber bullying, and violating the privacy of a minor.

Superintendent Patrick Russo indicated that an investigation had been completed by district officials on their own employees regarding the allegations, even though the district was not to investigate the allegations themselves, but to refer them to Child Protective Services.  Russo claimed that the abuse allegations had no merit.   At no point did the district interview or speak with the victims of the abuse prior to rendering their findings. Lucas has stated that the district has employed two county attorneys, Tom Tokarz and Andew Newby, as well as two retained outside attorneys from Reed Smith Law Firm, Kathleen Mehfoud and Patrick Andriano, to handle the civil action and hinder her continued efforts to advocate for students and families with special needs in Henrico Schools that continue to be victimized.  Reed Smith law firm is also the firm that has been retained by Penn State in order to defend them against their child abuse scandal.   A majority of the families that Lucas continues to support are African-American, single parent, economically-disadvantaged, and female with male students.

Lucas, a veteran educator and advocate for nearly two decades, notified district officials and school board members of repeated instances of child abuse, neglect, and civil rights violations of children with special needs by her own co-workers and supervisors. Some of whom she served as a mentor for.  In response to her allegations, great lengths were taken by the district to silence, discredit, and even threaten her personal safety. In fact, in a document from the school board, she was accused of “posing a threat to the safety of children,” by documenting and reporting child abuse and civil rights violations during school hours.  She was told by former Superintendent Fred Morton that if there were instances of abuse that she had witnessed, she must report them, “after school hours.”  He also advised her that she was not to compose or send any emails without obtaining his permission first.   Lucas refused to comply with the outlandish and illegal directives of Morton, and as a result, was charged with insubordination.  Henrico’s school board members upheld Morton’s illegal stance and non-renewed Lucas’ teaching contract, as retaliation, in June 2008.

Recently, the district continued its effort to target Lucas and prevent her from helping families with special needs whose civil rights have and are being violated when they banned her from Henrico County School property.  Lucas states that the banning is discriminatory and retaliatory, and she will not comply with it as it violates her right to due process.  She went on to state that an individual can appeal the banning of a book in Henrico Schools, but cannot appeal the banning of a parent/resident because there is no district policy that authorizes banning parents/advocates that challenge and expose abuse by the district.  The district has not responded to her claim, but the superintendent did admit that they do not have a procedure or policy for banning adults from the schools, and as a result, there is no policy to appeal a banning notice from the superintendent once it is issued.

Lucas has served as her own attorney throughout the nearly year-long legal battle in federal court.  In response to the pending settlement offer that is on the table, Lucas stated, “I am extremely grateful to God, my family, and friends, for supporting me in progressing to this point in this litigation.  My efforts in this case represent a fight for justice, in the face of horrific injustice, for every student, parent, and educator that has been victimized by any institution for acting in the best interest of our children and refusing to compromise our hearts or sell our souls to preserve corruption.   I expect that the Penn State Sex Scandal has shaken Henrico County Public School leaders and their attorneys up just as much as it has shaken up a majority of our nation.  Whereas, it was extremely difficult for the general public to believe that academic institutions and leaders would cover up and deny child abuse by their own employees; allowing them to remain employed, have unlimited access to abuse our children, and retaliate against anyone that exposes and challenges them for it; this is no longer an unbelievable concept.  Furthermore, it is not a rare occurrence either.  In prevailing within this civil action, it is my prayer that our profession, as educators, will wake up, become courageous, and be true advocates for the welfare and futures of children.  Our children can no longer afford to have silent co-conspirators to child abuse and neglect in the class room, board room, court room, or anywhere else.  There must be legislation passed immediately to increase the criminal penalty for failure to report the abuse of a child and covering it up at the felony level with mandatory prison time.  We must do what is right, no matter what the outcome is, because in the end, justice will prevail and what is done in the darkness will be exposed for the world to see.”

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1 Comment

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    Katina Y. Price, MSEd, CSET, QMHP

    You are “my kind of people”, Dr. Lucas.

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