RPS hit with $5.3M lawsuit over alleged sex harassment cover-up

RPS hit with $5.3M lawsuit over alleged sex harassment cover-up

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond School Board and superintendent just got slapped with a $5.3 million lawsuit for allegedly covering up sexual harassment between a male principal and a male assistant principal at Holton Elementary School.

"There is not a single piece of me that believes that that's true," said Amy Harr, who has been a teacher and parent at Holton Elementary for 13 years. "And for 13 years, my experience has been that it is an incredible place for my children to grow and learn. It's an incredible place to work."

But former assistant principal Fernando Lightfoot claims he experienced a hostile work environment. Lightfoot claims principal David Hudson "intently gazed at his crotch" and said, "l have expensive taste. You need to take me to the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC."

Lightfoot claims in the suit that the sexual advances continued for at least ten more occasions. Hudson allegedly calling him "weak, soft and useless" after Lightfoot ignored the advances. Lightfoot alleges he was ultimately dismissed and demoted to a counselor.

"If you talk to people who really know Mr. Hudson and who really know what the experience is at Holton, I expect you are going to hear exactly what I'm telling you," said Harr. "He's a good man who puts children first and creates a place where we can trust that our children are in good hands."

The Sands Anderson Law firm conducted an outside investigation when these allegations first came up more than a year ago. The 11-page report concludes there is not enough evidence to substantiate these claims.

But Lightfoot is now demanding reinstatement to his former position as assistant principal, back pay, including all lost wages, and  $5 million for his "pain and suffering."

When the allegations first came out, Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden released a statement denying a so-called conflict of interest during the investigation.

While the superintendent's child attended Linwood Holton, he calls any suggestion that he would allow personal feelings toward a school to impact his ability to perform his duties as superintendent "reckless and false."

Meanwhile, Harr says she and other teachers are standing by Principal Hudson

"We are really sad that he has to have any energy spent in defending himself," said Harr. "I've not spoken to a single person who believes this is true."

When the allegations first came out, Mr. Hudson's attorney called the allegations "bogus." We spoke to Mr. Hudson by phone Monday night. He declined to comment.

Richmond School Leaders released the following statement:

Although the district has now been made aware of this concern as a result of media inquiries, we are unable to provide any comment pending review of the accuracy of the complaint upon receipt of an official filing.

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