UGOTNERVE received detailed policy from a group of “legal eagles” that are as outraged about Morton’s series of discriminatory and retaliatory actions against educators like Ms. Lucas. In his most recent actions, he went from issuing a recommendation for renewal of her 2008-2009 contract to a written reprimand to a suspension with pay to a recommendation for dismissal, all in a span of seven days!
Morton demanded that Lucas not “send” or “prepare” any personal grievances during school hours, which was in direct violation of Henrico’s district policy and Virginia’s Code, Grievance Procedure, 22.1-308, Section C, which states, “Nothing in the procedure shall be construed to restrict any teacher’s right to seek or a school division administration’s right to provide customary review of complaints that are not included within the definition of a grievance.”
In addition, Virginia Code 22.1-306 defines a “grievance” as:
“Grievance” means a complaint or dispute by a teacher relating to his or her employment including, but not necessarily limited to: (i) disciplinary action including dismissal or placing on probation; (ii) the application or interpretation of: (a) personnel policies, (b) procedures, (c) rules and regulations, (d) ordinances and (e) statutes; (iii) acts of reprisal against a teacher for filing or processing a grievance, participating as a witness in any step, meeting or hearing relating to a grievance, or serving as a member of a fact-finding panel; and (iv) complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, political affiliation, handicap, age, national origin or sex. Each school board shall have the exclusive right to manage the affairs and operations of the school division. Accordingly, the term “grievance” shall not include a complaint or dispute by a teacher relating to (i) establishment and revision of wages or salaries, position classifications or general benefits, (ii) suspension of a teacher or nonrenewal of the contract of a teacher who has not achieved continuing contract status, (iii) the establishment or contents of ordinances, statutes or personnel policies, procedures, rules and regulations, (iv) failure to promote, (v) discharge, layoff or suspension from duties because of decrease in enrollment, decrease in enrollment or abolition of a particular subject or insufficient funding, (vi) hiring, transfer, assignment and retention of teachers within the school division, (vii) suspension from duties in emergencies, or (viii) the methods, means and personnel by which the school division’s operations are to be carried on.
Ms. Lucas voiced her grievance regarding the manner in which school board and school officials discriminate and retaliate against employees, former employees, and parents based on racial biases, which is legal grounds for a grievance. Based on Virginia law, Morton acted illegally AND violated Lucas’ civil and due process rights.
To make matters worse for Henrico County, a document for Lucas has surfaced with Philip Jepson’s signature on it, confirming that she indeed had earned “continuing contract” status. On the document, which has been forwarded to the proper parties for the upcoming civil suit, the statement is as follows:
This teacher has been approved for continuing contract status. Yes__ No__
The form is checked “YES”.
In addition, based on Henrico policies and Virginia Code 22.1-315, Morton illegally suspended Lucas due to the fact that he did not have proper grounds. The Virginia code states:
Grounds and procedure for suspension.
A. A teacher or other public school employee, whether full-time or part-time, permanent, or temporary, may be suspended for good and just cause when the safety or welfare of the school division or the students therein is threatened or when the teacher or school employee has been charged by summons, warrant, indictment or information with the commission of a felony; a misdemeanor involving (i) sexual assault as established in Article 7 (§ 18.2-61 et seq.) of Chapter 4 of Title 18.2, (ii) obscenity and related offenses as established in Article 5 (§ 18.2-372 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 18.2, (iii) drugs as established in Article 1 (§ 18.2-247 et seq.) of Chapter 7 of Title 18.2, (iv) moral turpitude, or (v) the physical or sexual abuse or neglect of a child; or an equivalent offense in another state. Except when a teacher or school employee is suspended because of being charged by summons, warrant, indictment or information with the commission of one of the above-listed criminal offenses, a division superintendent or appropriate central office designee shall not suspend a teacher or school employee for longer than sixty days and shall not suspend a teacher or school employee for a period in excess of five days unless such teacher or school employee is advised in writing of the reason for the suspension and afforded an opportunity for a hearing before the school board in accordance with §§ 22.1-311 and 22.1-313, if applicable. Any teacher or other school employee so suspended shall continue to receive his or her then applicable salary unless and until the school board, after a hearing, determines otherwise. No teacher or school employee shall be suspended solely on the basis of his or her refusal to submit to a polygraph examination requested by the school board.
B. Any school employee suspended because of being charged by summons, warrant, information or indictment with one of the offenses listed in subsection A may be suspended with or without pay. In the event any school employee is suspended without pay, an amount equal to his or her salary while on suspended status shall be placed in an interest-bearing demand escrow account. Upon being found not guilty of one of the offenses listed in subsection A or upon the dismissal or nolle prosequi of the charge, such school employee shall be reinstated with all unpaid salary and accrued interest from the escrow account, less any earnings received by the school employee during the period of suspension, but in no event shall such payment exceed one year’s salary.
C. In the event any school employee is found guilty by an appropriate court of one of the offenses listed in subsection A and, after all available appeals have been exhausted and such conviction is upheld, all funds in the escrow account shall be repaid to the school board.
D. No school employee shall have his or her insurance benefits suspended or terminated because of such suspension in accordance with this section.
*All Virginia Code references retrieved from: http://law.justia.com/virginia/codes/toc2201000/toc22010000015000000000000.html
In Morton’s May 5, 2008 correspondence to Lucas that was shared at this week’s NAACP meeting, he cited the reason for her suspension as follows, “the reason for your suspension is your insubordination in violating my direct orders not to prepare or send correspondence regarding personal grievances during school hours.”
How does Morton’s reason for suspending Lucas comply with Henrico and Virginia’s Code? You are thinking the same thing that we are, IT DOES NOT!
Morton’s actions have subjected the entire district, school board, and tax payers to a great liablity due to gross negligence, retataliation, and just plan unethical acts.
The word is that a local attorney has committed to paying for Lucas’ civil suit filing fees due to their outrage at how wreckless Henrico’s superintendent has been with Lucas over the past seven months. As one “legal eagle” stated, “this is a case that we will read about in law books. It is textbook negligence, retaliation, discrimination, and utter disregard for any form of district, state, and federal laws. Ms. Lucas is going to “own” Henrico Schools after all of this is over!”
Central offices sources have confirmed that Morton’s ultimate goal is to terminate Lucas for her “whistleblowing” and advocacy efforts during off-duty time. Instead of spending the county’s time and resources “solving” the issues that he finally had to admit to during an NBC 12 interview, he is still out to “silence” the issues. Hasn’t he learned anything! When will our children be HIS priority?
It would be in the district’s best interests to obtain the proper legal counsel regarding their actions at this point, someone that is competent in state and federal laws as it relates to public employees, free speech, and off-duty conduct, or maybe they have……..
As it stands, based on the word of our “legal eagles,” Morton has “cooked his goose’ with his most recent actions.