Some concerned principal's lawsuit could set precedent - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Some concerned principal's lawsuit could set precedent

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There are concerns a lawsuit filed by a Richmond school principal could have real consequences for a child's education. Some are wondering if the defamation suit filed against parents of RPS students could set a bad precedent for involvement.

When this lawsuit came to light, the superintendent transferred Principal Denise Lewis from Lucille Brown Middle School to the central office to avoid any distractions and issues. Some in the community, however, are now wondering if the simple filing of the suit is an issue itself.

Principal Lewis says several Richmond parents defamed her when they wrote a letter complaining about the circumstances at their children's school and asking for new leadership. The note eventually was published in Style Weekly. Lewis is asking for millions in damages.

"It's very unusual," said NBC12 Education Specialist Dr. Bill Bosher.

Bosher believes by the very nature of the job, public school employees are exposed.

"The truth is we are public servants," he told us. "Therefore the public has the opportunity to critique when we're doing well and when they think we're not."

Richmond is a school district in which leaders have traditionally encouraged involvement and pleaded with parents to play a role in their child's education.

"The thing that most influences student achievement is parents being involved with their young people and when you want that to happen this certainly could mute the enthusiasm," Bosher explained.

Some now fear a lawsuit like this sends a message. According to Bosher, it could have far-reaching consequences outside the courtroom.

"That parents backup and say 'I'm just not going to get involved. I don't have the money, the time to defend myself from a lawsuit that may be frivolous,'" Bosher added. "On the other hand, it can actually galvanize parents to come together in greater force."

When the lawsuit came about, RPS told us moving Lewis is a temporary reassignment. We reached out to the administration again Tuesday to see if they had anything to add to our story, but they declined to comment at this time.

No hearings have been scheduled in this case just yet.

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