On September 26, 2012, I was blessed to give birth to a 5 lb., 6 oz baby girl who I named Celeste. Celeste is a true representation of her name – heavenly. She has a bright smile and a caring heart. She’s always willing to help others and is joyous and peaceful. Celeste is my calm. She’s a brilliant student and a breath of fresh air. Those things about her make what happened to Celeste even more of a hard pill to swallow.
In March of 2019, the week before the kids were released for pandemic leave, I received a call that changed my life. I was informed by the principal of my daughter’s elementary school that she has been sexually assaulted on school grounds. To make the situation worse, they stated that the assaults occurred over a period of TWO SCHOOL YEARS. At the time we found out, Celeste was seven – they told us that the assaults started when she was FIVE in first grade. After I legit lost my mind, I immediately went into action to make sure that my daughter Celeste was safe. We found out that Monday, I kept her out of school Tuesday through Friday, and that Monday is when the entire district was sent home on pandemic leave.
The school district told me that my daughter’s assailant had been suspended for ten days and recommended for long-term suspension or expulsion. Then COVD happened. The school district only kept my daughter’s rapist out of school for five days and used COVID as an excuse to not discipline her (Yes, it was a girl who raped my daughter). Hampton City Schools didn’t even have the courtesy to inform the teacher that she was placed with what happened the school year prior. The teacher that my daughter’s rapist was assigned to didn’t even have the tools to implement risk management strategies to make sure that no other child was subjected to the same fate that my daughter was.
The DAY I found out about what happened to my daughter, I had a face-to-face conversation with Ann Stephens Cherry, Chair of the School Board. She told me that after she finished talking to me, she was going to contact Dr. Jeffrey Smith, Superintendent of Hampton City School and that I should receive numerous contacts from the district. That NEVER HAPPENED. From that point, Hampton City Schools has done everything that they can to compound my daughter’s situation to exponential heights. They have been reckless, uncompassionate, disrespectful and callous. They have taken their mantra of “Every child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes,” and burned it on site.
What’s the definition of neglect? According to Merriam-Webster, neglect is “ to leave undone or unattended to especially through carelessness.” When a child is REPEATEDLY RAPED ON SCHOOL PROPERTY FOR A PERIOD OF TWO SCHOOL YEARS, what is that other than NEGLECT?
Celeste was failed on multiple levels. She deserves better. Our children deserve better. Please join #8forCeleste in demanding that when any of our children are harmed, that the response be swift, holistic, and all-encompassing.