Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare

Brandywine School District


Patrick Wahl is taking the Brandywine School District to court.  Last year, his son was suspended for a week.  What makes this case fascinating is the fact that his son was punished for what amounts, in my opinion, to a wrongful search.  Brandywine’s board made the situation even worse.  I can now say this case and that case are the same one.  This morning on Facebook, Joseph’s father announced the lawsuit.  He gave me permission to copy his post. I could write about what happened, but it means more coming from his father.  This is how I got my start in blogging, and I am more than happy to return the favor:


It has been one year since my son, Joseph Wahl, was escorted out of the middle of a class at Brandywine High School by an administrator in front of his classmates and marched in intimidating silence the very long walk, and down several flights of stairs, to the administrators’ offices without being told where he was going or why. Just eerie silence, even when he asked where he was being taken. Then, his personal possessions were searched without Joseph being informed of so much as the accusation leveled against him. In fact, he still has not been told.

What began as an unconstitutional search quickly became an illegal fishing expedition, with Joseph actually having to assist in the escalating search, opening, explaining and even assembling forgotten items discovered in a crevice of the bag — a shrink-wrapped, credit-card shaped utility tool. After all, the Student Code of Conduct prohibits the defying of any “reasonable request” of any authority figure at the school; an infraction with serious consequences of its own.

Assistant Principal Keith Rolph then meted out a full week suspension for Joseph’s so-called “weapons offense.” And suddenly, Mr. Rolph became chatty. First, he interrogated Joseph about students Joseph did not know and about events elsewhere in the school while Joseph was in class. Joseph’s head was spinning. Then, of all things, Mr. Rolph chose to share with Joseph that while Joseph would be barred from attending swimming practice that afternoon, Mr. Rolph’s own son is a great swimmer, too — over at the private school he gets to attend!

We still don’t know why Mr. Rolph took Joseph out of class and searched his personal possessions. As best we can tell, Mr. Rolph was looking for some other kid named Joe, and Mr. Rolph and his superiors think that “similarity” makes searching the personal possessions of anyone named Joe, the most common of names, to be reasonable. But the Wilmington, Delaware school and its attorney, Mr. James McMackin, have misled, contradicted themselves, and stonewalled, and to this day have refused to explain what actually happened.

Even at the State Board hearing, they offered no coherent answers. We will get to the truth by putting every last one of them under oath in depositions and through discovery, though no parent should ever have to do that to get simple answers to legitimate questions.

After denying Joseph the ability to defend himself prior to the search — without knowing who or what they were looking for, Joseph could not so much as say, “That’s not me” — school and district administrators afterwards systematically stifled the due process to which my son was entitled.

When I arrived at the school in order to pick Joseph up now that he was suspended, Mr. Rolph told me that he had notified the police, and that the police may be contacting Joseph to question him as a suspect in a crime. And when I asked if the suspension could be appealed, Mr. Rolph made up out of whole cloth a one-day deadline to send such an appeal to Principal Simmons, while he intentionally withheld material facts from us.

Principal Simmons did not respond to the appeal, even though the Code of Conduct’s “Grievance Procedures When a Suspension Has Occurred” specifically required him to do so — a promise that once made by the school, it is obligated by law to keep. Joseph’s immediate suspension also violated the Code of Conduct’s “stay-put” provision, which was meant to allow Joseph to stay in school during the appeal process guaranteed to him.

I seldom post about my children, but I’ll tell you a few things about Joseph. He has a cumulative 3.9 GPA at Brandywine. He is the captain of both the varsity baseball team and the varsity swimming team. He has donated over 130 volunteer service hours in addition to working part-time at Staples, where he has been named “Employee of the Month” several times. He was selected by Brandywine High School as one of the two juniors to represent the school in DYLN, the very prestigious Delaware Youth Leadership Network, and was selected by Brandywine High School’s Faculty Council for membership in the National Honor Society based upon careful consideration of his scholarship, leadership, service and character.

A full week suspension is so serious that Joseph’s classmates and teachers concluded that it could be only for a drug or violent offense. In addition to being barred from attending the otherwise required SAT preparation course that week, Joseph lost at least one scholarship — one for which he had worked all year, and which Joseph’s partner ended up winning on his own.

The Delaware State Board of Education has already found that the Brandywine School Board’s decision not to expunge Joseph’s disciplinary record was “in violation of state law,” was “not supported by substantial evidence,” and was “arbitrary or capricious.” In addition, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Delaware has already found that Mr. John Skrobot and the other elected officials of the Brandywine School Board violated the Freedom of Information Act in their denying Joseph the due process to which he was entitled.

However, though Joseph’s record was ordered expunged by the state over the objections of the Brandywine School District, the district has yet to overturn the suspension itself. The school has not been held accountable in any way. Joseph STILL has to respond affirmatively when asked on applications whether or not he has ever been suspended, and explain it all away. The due process guaranteed to Joseph in the Code of Conduct was denied to him, and Joseph’s civil rights and his property interest in a free public education were denied him as well. Someone has to stand up and tell the out-of-control administrators, “Stop.”

Rather than apologizing for and correcting its unconstitutional search and seizure policy, its intentional withholding of critical information, and its gross misconduct, the school has covered up and stonewalled. They have not overturned their wrongful suspension. They have not revised their policies which violate the Constitution and trample upon student rights. And we continue to accumulate attorney fees simply to obtain the rights guaranteed to us in the school’s own Code of Conduct, already a staggering sum.

Since conducting his reckless, unconstitutional search, Assistant Principal Keith Rolph has been promoted to Acting Principal — Brandywine High School’s fifth principal in six years. Since unlawfully ignoring my appeal, Principal James Simmons has been promoted to Executive Director of Secondary Education for the Brandywine School District.

I understand that speaking publicly about the case opens me to a counterclaim of “defamation.” I also know that in a defamation case, truth is an absolute defense. Their goal may be to drag this case out as long as possible under the cover of darkness until you forget about it. They can drag the case out, but I will see to it that they do so in sunlight.

It could have been your son whose civil rights were trampled upon. For many of you at schools which similarly treat its students as prisoners, it has been your son. The district’s unconstitutional policies and procedures will not stand. They will be changed over the kicking and screaming of the superintendent and his administrators. We will never forsake our assignment: Joseph’s case will speak for all of the students and families who have not been able to fight back against the bullying administrators.

It’s time Superintendent Mark Holodick and his underlings learn how to do their jobs, receive training in the Constitution they are supposed to be teaching, and learn to respect the students entrusted to them. It is inexplicable that the district has fought this case tooth and nail from the very beginning in the defense of no discernible principle whatsoever, instead of apologizing, coming clean, and fixing what’s broken. But, then, they’re not spending their own money — they’re spending yours.

I remember hearing about this story on WDEL last year and thinking “this district is going to get sued!”  Why was Joseph Wahl searched that day?  I hope this family can find the answers that remain shrouded in secrecy for over a year now.  But more importantly, I hope this case changes how things are done in Delaware.  School safety is important, don’t get me wrong.  But so is due process and justice.  We talk about accountability for students all the time, but when the adults have to take that responsibility, things tend to get very quiet.  I applaud Patrick Wahl for going the distance on this and not only suing the district but also going public with it before it winds up in some settlement agreement.  These kind of things happen all the time but they are covered up by confidentiality agreements and settlement agreements.  The schools don’t want the information out there so they force the parents to comply.  Patrick Wahl said “No more!”


45 thoughts on “Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare

  1. And this is the same district that is going to ask me and my neighbors for money in the next few months. I don’t think so.


  2. Does any parent in Delaware believe the rhetoric from the DE school administrators when they say they are only interested in promoting our young people to ensure their success as adults? What a travesty for this young man to be falsely branded by the school administrators with no chance of correcting the record. The DE administrators should be ashamed of themselves for ruining a young persons life for an unreasonable and unsubstantiated issue. Does the school consider this one of their “transparent” actions? It will take this young man years to restore his standing among his peers, not to mention the posting of the incident on the education database for everyone with access to read. Next thing you know DE school authorities will start tattooing acronyms on the foreheads of students identifying them as a “weapons violator” or whatever they deem appropriat, so everyone will know what rules they have violated. Who trained these administrators, Hilter?
    It would be beneficial if Mr. Wahl would establish a web site so people can donate monies to help him with the legal fees he will certainly incur in fighting this school system.


    1. I could go through point by point here, but suffice to say: Keith Rolph’s top priority at Brandywine is the betterment of his students. No one decides to work with highschoolers for the pay, the perks, the hours, or the accolades. If you can’t believe that he and other members of the district staff are acting in good faith, then you’ve come to a conclusion before the evidence has been presented.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re sadly mistaken. People like Keith Rolph are in it for control, a force so addicting, they stay in the system for years, dishing out THEIR preferences and power-tripping on themselves for years. Didn’t you read the full report? Keith got a promotion that no doubt came with a raise. And administrators make pretty decent salaries, especially compared to the teachers who actually teach the kids in the classroom. It’s teachers, not administrators, who actually care and are not in it for the money.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just because you attended high school does not mean you have any idea what it’s like to actually work in one.

          Reading “a full report” (i.e. A one sided blog post) doesn’t really qualify you to pass judgment on an individual’s motivations for working in a high school.

          Also- what do you think administrators do for two decades prior their current job?

          I am not bashing you. You are entitled to your opinion, however unqualified. Just don’t present that opinion as fact. Leave that job to the bloggers.


        2. Bingo you got it gal….that’s the truth, for you often find the admin actually get much more money than the folks doing real work/teaching. Stories galore here on the east coast of whackjob head honchos sitting on butts and getting big bucks while teachers do the hard work.

          Knew one teacher who had been outstanding for years and one day the principal thought he could fatten his pay with even more money so he told her he didn’t need her anymore…and yes, he did POCKET the salary she no longer was able to get..and he didn’t replace her as the art teacher. So yes, there are some real pigs out there who should be put in their place. I attended a seminar about five years ago on how much an average school has in theft of supplies of all kinds, computers/lawn equipment, you name it. A small school district loses about 1/4 mil $ a year…larger ones at least 1 mil!

          One case stood out was a principal who with his secretary had pulled off theft to the tunes of several hundred thousands of buckage. They all hope and pray that you are the silent sheeple that do the PC bit. .that is, be silent/stupid and just accept whatever crap they send your way…don’t allow it. You can find out just how corrupt your schools are via an expert who has done it for years. If the school is playing with your tax monies, they will refuse to let you see the books, sad/true.


      2. I graduated in 2014, and although I may have only been in school with joe for two years, I had grown to know him. But for you, Brian, to say that we should not draw conclusions before having real evidence is absurd. Joe never had any intentions of doing something against the law, or code of conduct in any form. Brandywine highschool was where I spent four of my years preparing for college, but in no way was it the best place I could have been at. People like Keith Rolph are continuing to make this school worse. I hope Joe and his family get a lot of money for this crap shoot they have had to go through.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That sounds like a steaming bucket of horse pucky brian. As you say yourself, NO EVIDENCE is there to prove the nutty -no-proof-BS story. Is the school head a doper or just nuts?

        If they never could come out and tell what so called crime was committed, the parents should sue not only the principal, but the school board for going along with this travesty. Are their no men in that school district with a pair…or are they taking a page out of the commie faux gov’t who hates successful folks?

        Further the father should sue for TRIPLE DAMAGES as the damage they have done will follow for a very long time. If it were possible I would sue for quintuple damages..at the very least. It is obvious that one or more fools here are extremely jealous of this boy for which his parents can be extremely proud. I say that as a mother of five who all graduated at the top of the college classes. I was told in their early grades that they were all gifted students.

        I know all about kids who bully kids who are smarter, better looking and more talented. The story has begun anew with my dozen grandkids now who are also all at the top of their classes. So I would imagine that if someone is a teacher or principal has children not doing that great, it must be deal with a student who is far brighter than the morons teaching him…. Add talents and they go bonkers. Sorry teachers, but sometimes students are smarter, better and more talented. Instead of destroying the kid give him praise or don’t DARE to call yourself a teacher. Real teachers don’t bully/destroy kids!


      4. Bryan: Mr. Rolph is a principal in Brandywine because he likes the pay. As noted in the Dover Post (MOTDolores Posted Feb. 9, 2016 at 4:00 pm Updated Feb 9, 2016 at 4:09 PM) article, the job pays up to $150,000 per year with 2-3 months of vacation each year. His supervisor, Mark Holodick (who recently ensured Mr. Rolph was promoted), Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, also gets a health paycheck, a total compensation of $215,043.72. Think they are the only ones pulling down big taxpayer dollars? Look at the salary of Orlando J. George, Jr. former president of Delaware Technical Community College who received a total compensation of $419,267.27. How many Delaware seniors could attend UDE for free if that money had been set aside for them?

        If Gov. Markell, the school board and administrators get their way, Delaware residents will soon pay more taxes to fund all these great “educators” salaries. As noted in the Dover Post article , “In 2013-14, it (DE) allocated $1.8 billion to fund 60 percent of operating 19 school districts. The rest is funded through local property taxes. Delaware’s spending is among the top 15 states, averaging $15,837 per pupil. The national average is slightly more than $12,400.

        I’m no statistician, but I know the tax burden on Delaware residents, is too high and is projected to increase. Based on the other 35 states that are not in the high education bracket as noted in the Dover Post article, the national average is about $3,500 less than what Delaware pays, although the other 35 states have larger numbers of taxpayers, students, and schools.


        1. The tax burden on Delaware citizens is too high? Delaware is a bargain compared to surrounding states. In fact, you might want to look at the statistics of the numbers of people retiring there- from surrounding states. And, to claim that YOU know why ANYONE does anything is audaciously arrogant.


      5. It sounds as if Mr. Rolph, Mr. Simmons, Mr. Skrobot, Mr. Holodick, Mr. McMackin and the rest of the Brandywine School District have no interest in presenting any “evidence”; otherwise, they would have voted on expunging the student’s record in public session rather than violate state statute and make their decision in executive session.
        I, and others I’m sure, would love to hear the school board’s side of this tale, including the line of reasoning they followed to justify their actions (and inactions) following the search in question.


    2. Ginny, I really think using “Hitler” when asking who trained these administrators is going a bit too far, especially considering Hitler is an example of one of the most extreme mass murderers in history. No murder was committed here.

      While I know being a K12 administrator is no walk in the park, I have to admit I believe something is very wrong in the way that this was handled. If the administrators are wrong (sounds like they might be), they’re digging themselves a very deep grave. If/When you make a mistake, you need to admit it.

      Personally, being an individual who deals with young people (college students) on a daily basis, I feel there’s another problem. That problem is that an issue like this could, as you eluded to, “ruin a young person’s life.” Forget the fact that Joseph is probably completely innocent. Our society needs to quit expecting perfection out of everybody and blackballing those who aren’t perfect. Then, while Patrick would still be right to fight this till the bitter end (I would), at least nobody would be worrying about a “ruined life” for something that is so relatively minor on the scale of what goes on out there.


      1. Chuck, thank you for your feedback on my 3/1/16, comment. Like the schools in 1933 Germany many of today’s school educators are limited to the material they can teach and discouraged from expressing their own opinions. Every student is expected to perform the same, attend the same classes, use the same text books, take the same standard tests, etc. If anyone does not comply or follow the “code”, they are reprimanded and/or punished. Looking back at history, the largest group of professionals in Germany during that time were teachers, who joined the Party in greater numbers than any other profession. Schools played an important role in spreading Nazi ideas to German youth. Although no murder was committed, as you stated, the “mass murder” of thousands occurred because people were “indoctrinated” and trained to follow their leader and do it. This is why it is important for teachers not to take their positions of influence and authority to a level that causes harm.


  3. I had my own run in with BHS & the school board. Although I acknowledge the wrongdoing of my son, how the school and the board handled it was against constitutional law and the right for the parent(s) to be involved. By the time I got to school, all I could do was take my son home. A “recommended” stint at an alternative school after a an automatic 10 day suspension was in actuality mandatory. The wording in the school’s Code of Conduct said otherwise. Parents who want to be involved are left blindsided by an overzealous administration.


  4. Every parent should become familiar with their Code of Conduct, especially the due process provisions. definitions of violations, and allowable penalties. I have used the Code of Conduct to get my child out of trouble more times than it has gotten him in trouble.


  5. I don’t buy this, daddy money is getting his kid out of trouble as usual. If a kid is caught selling knives in school he should get suspended. I think all of this is completely pathetic. Joe, take your punishment and stop whining like a little baby.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John, in everything I read he was never given an accusation of selling knives in the school. I love how you completely ignore the school’s alleged lack of formal due process. I pray you never have a child this happens to. I applaud Mr. Wahl for speaking up.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ” daddy money is getting his kid out of trouble”

      “Discipline” is always administered much more efficiently against students with no resources.


  6. I was similarly arrested, after calling the police on a large group of illegal aliens and guest workers. I was not told why I was being arrested, nor who accused me of something. After it was all finally over — and you don’t need to know that nightmare! — I got involved in politics, and began successfully getting revenge.

    They wrecked my life, no doubt. I had to rebuild. I am a different person now, and more indestructible. Once you get thrown in jail without knowing why, you develop an edge, like “Is that all you got?? Bring it!”

    I’ve certainly made an impact, and am now fighting big stuff in D.C. God’s got a plan, and I’m ready for it. God bless you! Keep on fighting the good fight!


  7. The kid brought knives to school he deserves whatever punishment he got. His wealthy parents should not blow this out of proportion and complain when their son brought knives to school that’s absurd. In elementary school there’s one thing the teachers tell you not to bring to school and that’s knives. I guess he skipped that day.


  8. As a teacher, I am a witness to questionable administrator behavior on a daily basis. My own honor roll child experienced a similar unjust punishment for a very minor offense. I protested and it was lessened but this is not always the case.
    I blame it on the fact that everyone in the school system has become terribly overworked due to the obsession with data and testing. There is less time for just being human and kind. Rash decisions are made by unqualified people and it goes unchecked because their admin. Is too busy with paperwork and data.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A thousand thanks for your assertion honestly given above. I have teacher friends who have told me of similar events. One in particular, who had an outstanding reputation as an art teacher for over 15 years was pulled into head honcho’s office.

      Where he told her that her time was up and he didn’t need her anymore at that school. She would find out eventually why he did that criminal action. He managed to wrest the pay being given to her and direct it into his coffers to boost his pockets!
      To bad that taxpayers don’t know this crap goes on too often.

      It takes a real pos to do that…probably a typical ignorant liberal who sees nothing wrong with stealing…either another person’s livelihood or in the case above, stealing a kid’s good record. With the deadly dude in the above article, methinks he was probably jealous if the parent’s had more money than him..so why not pick on their kid who was no doubt doing much better than said principal’s own kids….for shame!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. And if a kid had been stabbed?? Oh it was probably a black kid so no worries. Oh wait, a white kid? Law suit!!!


  10. Mr. Wahl, I am very serious when I ask you to reach out to me. BSD took a power trip bar none, over my daughter and almost destroyed her life. My accusations, my proof, my word, my daughters word, all fell on deaf ears, inc Mr Simmins. Ive wanted to sue them ever since, I still may. Its not just you. Trust me. I certainly hope all works out for your son, its unbelievable

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara, if this also happened to your family I strongly suggest you sue and go for TRIPLE DAMAGES. For too long many gov’t types have thought they have the power.

      Usually you find the most weak, least intelligent are the ones who try to pull this crap and have no problem with ruining another’s life and future. In real psych parlance they are called sociopaths or often narcissists…they have no problem with projection or gaslighting others.

      I have a very strong hunch this is the case with this whackjob head of school. Such a person should pay and pay heavily for attempting to destroy another’s life, for the simple reason that it’s uber demonic. All done without a shred of conscience!!


  11. John, do you know for a fact, Mr. Wahl can afford the legal fees for his son, as you’ve stated “daddy (sp) money is getting his kid out of trouble as usual.”? Your comment makes one think you know more about this situation than Joseph’s father, Mr. Wahl. One must assume by your comment that you have access to information that has been denied to Mr. Wahl. The state has a full-time attorney on staff that defends the State and its employees, Mr. Wahl must dig into his own pockets to hire an attorney to fight the charges against his son. The fact that Mr. Wahl cares enough about his son’s future to take on the State of Delaware educational system is awesome, many parents do not have the resources to so.
    Administrators and teachers preach to parents constantly about being involved in their children’s education. Clearly, there’s an exception, when the child gets in trouble, parents are not to be involved. That is senseless. Many students like Joseph suffer for years with the consequences of irrevocable and unjust accusations like this, preventing them from getting into the college of their choice or employment in the vocation they have studied for. Based on your assessment, Joseph deserves to be punished by denying him a career or future. This is the wrong way to discipline a young person, especially a student like Joseph who’s resume of accomplishments posted by Mr. Wahl, are outstanding.
    Why do you believe it’s OK for school authorities to remove a student from class, march him through the school with his peers watching, search him, restrict him from immediately contacting his parents, deny him any legal representation and levy a verdict and punishment without a proper hearing or prior notification of his parents. What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? Evidently it only applies to adults, children going to Delaware schools have no rights and neither do their parents.
    School administrators have set themselves up as law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and juries. This is wrong morally and intellectually. It would be wise for parents to fear the DE education system. Fear does not equal respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Outstanding Ginny. I am on the east coast where commie common core is being brought into the system. Do you know if they have begun that uber idiot program into Delaware? If so the whole idea is to make kids equal…so if your kid is brighter than most, the whole idea behind common crud is to bring that kid down so the dumber kids look better. It appears that this principal is adhering to a similar commie outlook.

      Pls let me know if common core is in this school setting for I have attended seminars on this more than evil infiltration into the public school system meant to destroy brighter kids! And can provide much info to help you get it out of your schools.


    2. Wonder how this all played out. That full time attorney the schools all use …Jim… is a super unethical bully and should have been disbarred years ago.


  12. I have been dealing with the same something with my son in DAPSS. It’s in every school which isn’t fair. These young adult are being handed back from an education because of the adults in the school. The adults think what they say is always right. What happen to the teachers that where in the profession because they cared and not just the pay checks. These educators need to realize that enough is enough.
    Maybe if we all had the means to go further schools would be better educating our kids on what really important and test grades would improve.


  13. Today’s news story on the web, describes 4 high school students who torched their principal’s residence, with him and his family inside, because of disciplinary actions taken against them by the principal. Disciplining students is a serious issue and punitive actions can turn into negative consequences for all parties involved.

    Mar 3 2016, 12:56 pm ET
    Idaho High School Students Accused Of Burning Down Principal’s House In Revenge

    by Corky Siemaszko

    Four Idaho students angry over suspensions took revenge on their high school principal by burning down his house while he and his family were still inside, police said.


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