A former Richmond Public Schools principal is appealing a court ruling that complaints from parents about school conditions weren't defamatory.
In a letter published online by Style Weekly in July 2013, Lucille M. Brown Middle School parents criticized their children's principal, Denise Lewis, citing unclean conditions, safety issues and poor teacher morale.
In February, Lewis sued four of the 49 parents who signed the letter, seeking $3.5 million in damages. The Richmond Public Schools reassigned Lewis to administrative work, and she retired from the district in June.
A Richmond Circuit Court judge declared the statements not defamatory in a ruling July 24, but Lewis filed notice July 31 that she would appeal.
Lewis' lawyer, Jonathan Arthur, declines to comment on the matter, as does Mark Colombell, who represents two of the parents. Drew Gallalee, a lawyer for two other parents, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
School Board Vice President Kristen Larson, whose district includes Brown Middle School, says the school is working to move on with a new leadership team that includes new principal Jonathan Morris.
"We need to all make sure that parents aren't fearful about speaking out, and that they are comfortable coming to us with challenges and problems," Larson says. "The new leadership team in RPS is committed to addressing the problems and having an open and honest dialogue about them."