J was officially expelled from the Smyrna School District on September 21st, 2016. But his mother was not giving up without a fight. She told the administration this very thing at the discipline hearing two weeks before this. So it wasn’t a shock when his mother filed an appeal with the State Board of Education. Something happened soon after that raised serious questions as to the true intent of J’s expulsion.
J’s mother retained an attorney. She had the State Board appeal AND the criminal trial for J coming up. To that end, she hired Greg Johnson, a criminal defense attorney based out of Wilmington. With the help of friends, J’s mother soon found herself fully immersed in not only being J’s mother but also his fiercest advocate. This was a woman who had no background in law and was up against an entire school district.
She went ahead and filed the appeal with the State Board of Education. On September 21st, the same day as the Smyrna Board of Education meeting which decided J’s fate, a very unusual event occurred that would cause J’s mother to change things up. Her attorney could not represent her due to a very major conflict of interest: he was Smyrna School District Superintendent Deborah Wick’s nephew! I’m sorry, but how could Johnson have not known this would represent a conflict? But still, he charged J’s mother $1000.00 for his services up to that point. J’s mother wasted no time including this part in her appeal with the State Board of Education.
J’s mother included several hand-written pages in the appeal application. Things came up that were not part of the district Discipline Hearing.
I told you the difference between the two notice of discipline hearing letters would come up again, and here it is! As well, Hearing Officer Powell’s Finding of Facts included bad information and dates which the Smyrna School Board accepted as is. Not to mention the very clear conflict of interest her attorney had. Her former attorney, Greg Johnson, claimed he was hired for a criminal trial, not the district discipline hearing. But since the criminal trial revolved around things that happened in the Smyrna School District, how could he have not foreseen this very apparent conflict of interest?
J’s mother hired a new attorney named Melissa Dill. The first criminal trial through the Delaware Family Court was scheduled for October 20th, but Dill requested a continuance. The new trial date was scheduled for November 14th.
Throughout the summer, J and his mom were attending pre-trial hearings called “Case Reviews” at Family Court. The district agreed to provide homebound services up to the point of J’s discipline hearing. But after the Smyrna Board’s decision, that service ended. Before the trial, J’s mother was preparing for the State Board appeal.
While this a short article, it is one filled with huge transitional moments. It was a time of preparation for J’s mom. J’s mother requested a meeting with the State Board of Education Hearing Officer Dr. Thomas Pledgie:
During this time, Smyrna School District was also busy preparing for their own defense in the State Board appeal. They started to rattle another cage in this ongoing saga:
Smyrna School District was also preparing for J’s criminal trial as well:
My big question coming from everything was Smyrna’s insistence they provided all school-based interventions for J. But not once did J ever meet with his guidance counselor, Rosalind Parker. I would have though that would have been the first thing the school did. The alleged victim, P, met with Parker the afternoon of April 20th, when the 2nd alleged incident occurred. Why didn’t Parker intervene and attempt to get J’s side of the story?
After the meeting with Hearing Officer Pledgie, the State Board of Education put a “discussion” part on their agenda for their December 15th board meeting. Was the State Board of Education going to agree with the Smyrna School District Board of Education or would they make a radical decision?
To be continued in Part 7: Moments that blow this out of the water and another massive twist in the whole thing! The criminal trial and the State Board appeal!