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Richmond Principal Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Parents



The middle-school principal criticized in a letter signed by a group of 49 parents last year has filed a defamation lawsuit against four of those parents, seeking $3.35 million in damages plus attorneys' fees.

Denise Lewis, the principal of Lucille M. Brown Middle School, says in the lawsuit that at least two of the complaints against her were false and injured her reputation. The suit was filed Feb. 11 and reported by the Times-Dispatch on Saturday. On Monday, Superintendent Dana Bedden announced Lewis has been temporarily reassigned to "minimize any distraction this situation may have on the school."

The parents' letter, sent July 18, 2013, was addressed to Jonathan Lewis, then acting as superintendent. It complained about a range of problems under her leadership, including safety, cleanliness, discipline and teacher morale.

In her lawsuit, Lewis names two of the complaints as false: that it took 30 minutes to address a child bringing a loaded gun into a classroom, and that she knowingly sent false class schedule information to parents. Style published the letter online in July.

Second District School Board member Kim Gray, the parent of a child in the school's International Baccalaureate program, says she considered signing the letter at the time, but "didn't want to muddy the waters" considering her position as a board member. Instead, she's spoken in support of the parents' complaints.

"I stand by what I said," Gray says. "These are verifiable things."

Attorneys representing the parents could not be reached for comment.

Lewis' attorneys are determining whether they will add parents to the lawsuit. Attorney Andrew Bodoh says Lewis has until July, one year from the date of publication, to file suit.

"We are continuing our investigation into the role that these people had into the situation," Bodoh says.

He says a trial date hasn't been determined.

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