While my previous attorney and I were in the battle to get our family’s therapy costs taken care of, something happened that changed the trajectory of our asks. Celeste was enrolled in another school and the students were in hybrid instruction where they went to school two days a week. Celeste went on her Chromebook to see if her cousin (who was still at John Tyler Elementary) had made Honor Roll. She then came up to me and said “Mom, (insert assailant’s name) is back and Tyler.” I responded, “No she’s not.” “Mom, she’s back at Tyler.” “Celeste, how do you know this?” She then brought the Chromebook to me and low and behold, my daughter’s rapist had received an award for something and her name was published in the paper. Celeste then went into a two-week long panic attack where she kept saying, “Mom, what’s going to stop her from coming to my new school? What’s going to stop her from coming to my middle school? My high school?” Through her tears, she kept repeating this. As a mother, hearing her sobs was one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. How do you respond to a child who is generally afraid to go to school when you can’t provide an answer to her that’s going to protect her from harm? At that moment, our demands changed. The demand changed from placing her in the school of our family’s choice to private education. Hampton City Schools could not provide a safe environment where Celeste could be legitimately protected from harm. They could not ensure that she could safely be in a school where she didn’t have to look behind her shoulder for her rapist.
Whereas our intentions were to keep Celeste in Hampton City Schools, at that point there was no other solution. Through attempting to work with the school administration (through my attorney) to come to an equitable solution for my family, that solution was not what Hampton City Schools wanted. They wanted to double down on absolving themselves. But while doing that, who suffers? Obviously Dr. Jeffrey Smith, Superintendent of Hampton City Schools doesn’t suffer. He’s too busy trying to sell HCS’s curriculum to other people and smiling in front of whatever camera he can find. The School Board doesn’t suffer. Ann Stephens Cherry and Dr. Richard Mason staged a coup to remove Joe Kilgore and Dr. Reginald Woodhouse from their roles of chair and vice chair respectively. Ann Cherry and Dr. Mason LOVE to preen all over each other and dismiss any and everything that has to do with my daughter – Ann Cherry knew about this DAY ONE and has done NOTHING, even though I bet each one in either a direct or indirect capacity has needed me for their campaigns.
All feelings aside, what’s best for Celeste has to be done. Outside of the smoke and mirrors, doing what’s best for Celeste is what has to be done. And for this reason, my husband and I made the difficult choice to seek Celeste’s education elsewhere.