A former Henrico County teacher is suing the county school system, charging that she was targeted by school administrators and eventually fired for attempting to blow the whistle on alleged pupil abuse.
Kandise Lucas, who taught special education classes at John Rolfe Middle School, filed a $5 million lawsuit in federal court on Jan. 4 against the county School Board and several administrators, including Superintendent Patrick Russo and John Rolfe's principal, Andrew Armstrong.
Lucas says in the suit that her teaching contract wasn't renewed in June 2008 because she attempted to document and report alleged abuse of special education pupils.
According to court documents, Lucas says she previously received a 60-day suspension in May 2008 for violating repeated orders not to send e-mail correspondence regarding personal grievances during school hours.
But Lucas says the e-mails were part of an effort to document concerns about incidents of physical and metal abuse allegedly perpetrated by a former special education teacher at John Rolfe. Lucas charges that the teacher verbally abused minority pupils, according to court documents, and once “threw a video tape at the head of a student.”
Along with the abuse allegations, Lucas' suit says the teacher also engaged in a pattern of harassment against the school's female staff.
Lucas, who is representing herself, says she made numerous attempts to alert members of the School Board of what she considered unsafe conditions at Rolfe, but was ignored. State law required her to communicate suspicious and discriminatory conduct by other teachers to authorities, she says.
“These were school-related issues,” Lucas says. “They said the e-mails made me subject to disciplinary action. But why would I wait to go home and do school-related work?”
Mychael Dickerson, a spokesman for the Henrico Public Schools, declines to comment on the case, citing school policy of not discussing pending litigation.
Senior Assistant County Attorney Tom Tokarz says the county is aware of the lawsuit and is investigating the allegations. “We plan to vigorously defend the defendants in this action,” he says.