The day I found out about my daughter’s assaults, I had a face-to-face meeting with Ann Stephens Cherry, the chair of the school board. She told me that immediately after she finished speaking to me, she was going to reach out to Dr. Jeffrey Smith, the Superintendent of Hampton City Schools and that I should receive NUMEROUS contacts from the school administration. To date, that has NEVER happened.
I gave Hampton City Schools TWO MONTHS to reach out to me. At that point, I hired an attorney to assist with the more exploratory functions of my daughter’s case. She was wonderful, but from jump, Hampton City Schools put up impenetrable walls to not do right by Celeste. My demands were simple and low lifts for Hampton City Schools:
Evaluation for Spratley Gifted Center (now Kilgore Gifted Center)
During the time that Celeste was subjected to these assaults, her grades were STELLAR. Our position was that if Celeste could keep her grades up while she was being assaulted, what could she do when she was not? Hampton City Schools initially refused to evaluate Celeste. Then, out of the blue, we received a testing date. Celeste did not qualify for gifted programming and that’s okay – all I wanted was for her to be evaluated. From that point, we moved on to the second bullet.
Placement of my daughter and my son in the school of our family’s choice.
As we moved into the next school year, my son became school age. He was NOT going to John Tyler (now Mary Peake) Elementary. We asked for both children to be placed at Armstrong. Nanci Reaves, the idiot general counsel for Hampton City Schools, stated that my kids had to test into Armstrong which is not true – there is a wait list. With what happened to Celeste, I would think that the situation garnered an exception, but I digress. The next school we asked for was Asbury Elementary. Nanci Reaves then stated that Asbury was at capacity and that they could not go there. She then offered a school that has worse test scores than Tyler. Why would I put my children in a school that was WORSE than the one they would come from? That’s when I got angry.
My attorney then presented me with three schools that had good test scores. Two of the schools I was not interested in but one school I was – Tucker Capps (now Mary Jackson). I made a phone call to both Armstrong and Tucker Capps as my attorney told me to fill out paperwork for both in case Hampton City Schools came back with the excuse that they couldn’t do anything because the paperwork had not been submitted. I filled out the paperwork and sent it to both schools. Armstrong put my kids on that bottom of the waiting list. But by the grace of God, the office manager at Tucker Capps advocated for my kids on my behalf and they were offered acceptance there. MORE THAN TO WEEKS AFTER my children had been disenrolled from Tyler and moved to Tucker Capps, Nanci Reaves contacted my attorney and said, “Have Mrs. Miller fill out the Out of Zone form and send it to me.” It would have taken a SIMPLE SEARCH in HCS’s computer system to see that my kids were not in Tyler anymore but Nanci Reaves is LAZY and INCOMPETENT.
Assurances that My Daughter and Her Rapist Never be in the Same School Again and that Celeste be Given Priority
Hampton City Schools has migrated to a choice school model. There are certain schools in the city where you can gain admittance based on applying and receiving admission into those programs based on academic merit. Celeste is a brilliant little girl who has the potential to do great things. She is a prime candidate for choice programs. Our family’s ask was that if Celeste gained admission into a choice program or if she attends a specific school, Celeste’s rapist could NOT attend that school. The choice school program also extends to high schools. Hampton’s premier program for high schools is the “Academies at Hampton” program, where students are not restricted to attending their zoned high school, but have the opportunity to attend schools based on the individualized programs that each school showcases. Our ask was not limited to elementary and middle school choice programming, but to high school as well. Our aim was to have Celeste protected for the entire time that she would be a student in Hampton City Schools. If Celeste was a student at a school, Celeste’s rapist could not be – POINT BLANK. Hampton City Schools refused to provide these assurances, even though Celeste was repeatedly raped on their watch.
Payment of the copays for my family’s therapy.
From the point that this happened, Celeste and I have BOTH been in therapy. Like most women, I have a #MeToo past. This situation has triggered some demons for me that I thought I had LONG put away. I’m sure you can imagine the level of therapy Celeste requires. It’s been a struggle, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. Our ask was that Hampton City Schools covers the copays of our therapy – the equivalent of $120 a month. HCS refused, stating that we should be satisfied with Celeste seeing the guidance counselor periodically. Guidance counselors are NOT child trauma specialists. That offer was unacceptable. They then came back that they MIGHT be able to cover Celeste’s therapy costs.
All of these requirements were sent to Hampton City Schools and they refused. To date, they haven’t paid a dime of therapy costs.
Circumstances that occurred later changed our family’s demands. Please see "When Things Changed" for more information.