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Parents "Bullied" by Richmond Schools

Like the Hocker family featured "The insubordinate" (Cover Story, March 12), our family was bullied and chased out of a Richmond Public School, John B. Cary Elementary. Although our daughter never received a school suspension, she became a target of an administration that demonized normal childhood behaviors. She was hounded for talking during lunch, for drawing after completing classroom assignments, and made to feel horrible about her imagination. The administration grossly mishandled typical disagreements between children and caused further discord.

Over several harrowing weeks at Cary, it became apparent that our child was being set up for failure and worse, was being psychologically abused at school. We kept School Board members Betsy Carr and Keith West informed. We spoke with Principal Brenda Phillips' supervisor. Eventually, thanks to board member Carol Wolf we were allowed to speak in closed session with a few board members, the director of human resources and members of the RPS Safety & Security Office.

Before our abrupt transfer mid-October from Cary to another school, an RPS employee slipped me a phone number and later gave details how the administration had been "picking" on our child and how they had been trying "to get rid" of us.

Our daughter left Cary with straight A's and a clean school record including glowing end-of-the-year comments from her teachers. In her new school, she has continued to be on honor roll and has not had any discipline problems.

Our family's suffering could have been prevented. For over three years, families and teachers have complained and reported on Principal Phillips -- everything from shunning, shaming, bullying, yelling, belittling and inept leadership, to barricading a child in the school office hallway — to RPS administrators at City Hall such as the principal's supervisor, Schools Superintendent Deborah Jewell-Sherman, School Board members and human resources. The parents and teachers have shared their stories and cannot understand how Phillips could still be a principal and feel horrible that our daughter was hurt.

Ms. Tonya Hocker will transfer her daughter to Cary next fall, unaware that Phillips is under investigation and that her administration has operated much like Chimborazo's, where her daughter was severely mistreated. Administration and School Board downtown must fire all inept and bullying principals from RPS and question Jewell-Sherman's decision-making and policies. We cannot have a RPS system where test scores count and not children.

We commend Tonya Hocker for her courage and wish her family well. The psychological abuse they have suffered under the RPS system is reprehensible.

K. Gray and R. Hossaini, parents

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