Friday, June 19, 2015

Civil Rights Violations in the Brockton School District

In March The Fact She3t covered a case in which students, parents, and community members voiced their concerns over Brockton High School's disciplinary actions, particularly students of color. In the piece "Brockon's School-to-Prison Pipeline", we mentioned a set of parents testifying before the school committee about the violations of their children's rights. One of those parents, Michael Dockery, has penned a letter to the US Department of Justice in hopes that justice for his son will be served. 

In the three part series The Fact She3t will publish segments of the letter. Mr. Dockery's hope is that with sharing these stories of his son and others he can "make a difference for these young kids. Too many families and kids have been hurt by these people's actions," because, "the more adults and kids that know about these issues the better."


U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylanvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Main
Washington, D.C. 20530

Re: Civil Rights Violations in the Brockton School District

Dear Correspondents,

I wish I was writing this letter to celebrate the great strides we have made as a nation, to unite all the great races and cultures of the world which have merged in the USA to make it one of the best countries on the planet. Hundreds of millions of people are co-mingling, sharing ideas, celebrating accomplishments not only of themselves but that of family, friends and country enjoying the benefits of being in a great country. Unfortunately it’s the opposite insight that has caused me to pen this letter.

I’m writing on behalf of my son and some of the ethnic students in the Brockton Public School System, whose Civil Rights have been violated in the worse way, by school administrators. These administrators, who happen to be white, think for some irrational reason they can believe the false story they tell themselves that they are superior and entitled to punish and disrupt minority students, by practicing racial bigotry and bias. The 17,000 plus student population has 80% ethnic students, but is controlled by 90% white administrators. These people which are Public Servants, who are paid to serve, protect and administer to the under age kids and future generations of our city, state and country, keep showing a destructive pattern of punishing these ethnic students. These public servants who receive government money to serve these students, lack the basic understanding of Federal and State Laws, don’t respect the law, don’t respect their job description, don’t understand human nature, thick with hypocrisy, don’t understand economics, lack diversity, social, interpersonal and cultural skills. Now with all those deficiencies and limitations these people own, they are putting their deficiencies and limitations on our kids by punishing them with harsh treatment and criminal records without proper due process, while letting the white kids get away with more disruptive behavior and are more lenient with them. These administrator’s hypocrisy and destructive behavior first came to light to me when my son had an incident in school near the end of November, 2014 when he was 15 years old. I notified the School Housemaster, Principal, Superintendent, the Mayor of Brockton, my City Councilor, the Brockton School Committee Members, and the State Senator

Some of these people even claimed to have law degrees. Without knowing anything about us or who we are as individuals, they treated my son and me so horribly, disregarding his rights, and it made me think, who else they have done this too. The arrogance and total disregard of the laws of the United States from these people when it comes to human and civil rights are shocking. The total disregard for Federal and State Laws which ensures all students are entitled to an education, free of discrimination, regardless of their background, and also disregard in following their job descriptions, and the school handbook which are derived from the Federal and state laws in unfathomable. These administrators have violated my son’s civil right and a right to due process. 

They have punished my son five separate times for the same incident without due process, claimed they have school video camera footage and witness statements of the incident and have yet to show it. They had a court case in which they filed charges against my son, and put him on 6 months’ probation. 

To explain what is really going on in the Brockton school system I will give some detail describing a few tragedies that have happened to my son and other ethnic parents and their kids at the hands of these school administrators, Brockton school police and the Plymouth County clerk magistrate in the juvenile court. The detailed report of the incident regarding my son was sent to the superintendent and everyone that I mentioned earlier in the interest of time I will make my son's story brief.

Story One

My son's incident in brief….

He was on his way to his school locker one morning, when he bumped into a young lady by accident, and he apologized to her, but yet she continued to hit him, then scratching him on the chest. Finally after the third time in her attacking him, she calmed down after someone yelled out that a hall teacher was close by. When the school called me they told me a whole other story and although the school police and the school nurse took pictures of the scratch on my son chest and claimed to have seen the video, they wrote up an entirely different report. Once I saw a whole bunch of inconsistencies, and very little fact finding, I started to question their judgment and experience as administrators. The more I questioned their mishandling of the incident the more they would punish my son. 

First they transferred him out of the class he had with the girl, second they gave him three days suspension after the matter and the hearing was closed, third they filed criminal charges for assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon four days after the matter and that hearing was closed, fourth kicked him out the nursing program which had nothing to do with the incident, fifth transferred him to a whole other section of the school with different teachers and classes. All these punishments were done over a course of a month without any proper due process or acknowledgment of any rights whatsoever, plus all the indirect consequences of those punishments. 

The school police officer Julie Myshrall, that filed the charges against my son made up an entirely different story and trapped herself leaving out key facts and a video tape she claimed she saw. An internal affairs report was made on her for mis-carrying her duty to serve and report her correct findings. My son also told me and my wife that the school administrator that was overseeing this whole incident has a history of punishing the black kids more severely especially the Black Americans, Haitians and Cape Verdeans, than he does the white students, and everyone knows it. My son upon his return from his three days suspension, without due process, started a petition ( exb. 1) which states that Kevin Daponte mistreats ethnic students more harshly, was passed around. Upon passing the petition around the demand to sign it was so overwhelming that the school principal, Ms. Wolder, got a hold of the petition information then she stopped the petition drive. 

Within less than three hours over a 130 students and teachers signed the petition. 

As a taxpayer I was very upset. I couldn’t believe what my son was proving. This person was actually getting tax dollars in the form of a paycheck to practice racial discrimination and oppression on students. I was shocked so I set out to notify all the public officials and public servants that had direct control and had proper chain of command of these people, but nothing was done to resolve the situation. Finally I contacted the newspaper, the Brockton Enterprise, then I started to get some results. I also contacted the Board of Education Federal Office in Boston, and the Federal Office in Washington DC, but the Brockton school officials did not take those federal offices seriously or my kid rights seriously.

Once I contacted the newspaper and exposed these public servants, a series of meeting took place between me, my wife, School superintendent Kathleen Smith, Tom Minichiello Jr. School Committee chair, Brockton Principal Ms. Wolder, Bishop Teixeira a community organizer, and several of the Brockton school system support staff.

A. In several executive meetings with these people in front of witnesses both Superintendent Kathleen Smith and Principal Ms. Sharon Wolder admitted that they saw the videotaped evidence of my son, and that “the video was blurry and dark so they couldn’t make out who was who or what really happened”.

B. Tom Minichiello, Kathleen Smith, and Sharon Wolder were also shown the Petition with the over 130 student’s and teacher’s signatures regarding a racist administrator and also were informed about all the disparaging reports I had gathered from the community forums with the help of Toni Saunders of the Associated Advocacy Center regarding discrimination toward minority students.

C. Kathleen Smith told the Brockton Enterprise and the Boston Globe, that they have met with the Dockery Family for over 8 hours but we don’t understand what else they can do for us. Also Kathleen Smith and Ms. Wolder keep repeatedly parroting, telling the Brockton Enterprise (January 5th 2015), Boston Globe (April 5th 2015), Cable TV, and school Committee meetings they have put in place a policy to follow the new rule called Chapter 222, which finds different ways of punishing kids instead of suspending them.

Here are the biggest issues these people clearly missed:

1. Superintendent Kathleen Smith and Tom Minichiello claimed to have law degrees, but doesn’t understand what they are saying is a clear violation of what the laws are about or their job description.

2. They punished a young kid five separate times without due process and now they’re claiming the video was blurry??

3. There are no triple jeopardy laws in the America, but they punished a kid five separate times for the same event.

4. It’s very frustrating that Kathleen Smith who claims to have a law degree doesn’t understanding she put her foot in her mouth by stating she has met with the Dockery Family for 8 hours to resolve this issue and they are not happy. Based on Ms. Smith's legal degree she should have known or at least been aware that everyone is entitled to due process, you can’t punish someone on a video that is clearly blurry, punishing a student multiple times, and refusing to show the family the video that she claimed she saw.

5. Although Kathleen Smith, Sharon Wolder keep mentioning chapter 222, I have personally found four minority kids that school administrator drag through the court system unnecessarily and some given more suspensions to compare to their white counterparts. I was looking everywhere trying to find a white kid to prove my theory wrong, but all I heard from witnesses was that school administrators offer these white kids extra resources and breaks to get on the right track.

6. Ms. Wolder who is also black disappointed me and my wife because so many blacks from the past and throughout history have marched, got hanged from trees, got milk poured all over them so that others can shine but now she has her time to shine and right a lot of wrongs, she uses this opportunity to further punish a young black student.

7. Although Mr. Minichiello, Kathleen Smith, and Sharon Wolder, were all given a copy of the petition regarding discrimination of the ethnic students, mentioned to them about the Federal law on civil rights, education law and how Mr. Daponte is practicing racial mistreatment, Ms. Kathleen Smith said directly to everyone in the room “Mr. DaPonte is a valued team member and he’s not going anywhere”.

8. I have asked Tom Minichiello via email and in person several times, “you work for a law firm, what if over a 130 co-workers signed a petition stating a certain co-worker was practicing racial discrimination or sexual harassment , would that person still have a job? And if that person still had a job what is that saying about your character?”. He has yet to answer my question.

9. These administrators fail to realize every student they put in the court system or suspend unwisely leaves a paper trail. All the negative traps they’re setting for the kids, to give them criminal records or excessive punishment will only serve to trap and expose themselves and their own failures. Any smart person has to do is come into the school district and run an internal audit to see how many minority student got punished and who did the punishing.
To end this section about my son, this is a kid that volunteers his time to feed senior citizens and clean local parks and many other charity events with the different groups he belongs too. He has been to over 14 different countries including China, Morocco, France, etc, a once proud kid who would smile and share stories went he would see President Obama, and Secretary of State John Kerry in the countries we have been to on the news. Now he’s questioning the laws and the honesty of some people, this is not something he or my family is use too.

This will be followed by the second and final part of the letter. Please share the letter to bring more attention to the problems addressed in it. (Read Part 2 here)

This was written by Michael Dockery, 617-212-8141,
Arranged by E. Rey

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