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Internal Audit Investigates Alleged Teacher Harassment in Chesterfield

Chesterfield School
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors has launched an internal audit of both the school district and of the Chesterfield Education Association, the teacher’s union. The investigation stems from allegations that teachers are bullying each other online for being opposed to a strictly virtual fall reopening. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)  

The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors has launched an internal audit of both the school district and of the Chesterfield Education Association, the teacher’s union. The investigation stems from allegations that teachers are bullying each other online for being opposed to a strictly virtual fall reopening.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Chair Leslie Haley told school Superintendent Merv Daugherty she was concerned about reports of teachers being bullied for opposition to virtual reopening. 

“I’m hoping that this audit shows that there is no evidence of that, but I think we owe it to the employees that had the strength to bring it up,”  Haley said.

Haley said she received calls, emails and watched the most recent school board meeting, which featured comments from parents about the alleged bullying. 

Leslie Haley
Board of Supervisors Chair Leslie Haley speaking to school Superintendent Merv Daugherty at last week's Supervisor's meeting. 

Not all board members agree with the accusations, however. In an email response to questions from VPM, supervisors Jim Ingle and Kevin Carroll said they support the audit, but Supervisor Jim Holland--the lone Democrat on the board - said he does not.

“I cannot agree an audit is needed because I do not know what type of bulling is alleged and by whom,” Holland wrote. ”Is it teachers [or] administrators? Also, the CEA is a not-for-profit 501c3, not a  governmental entity as CCPS [Chesterfield County Public Schools].”

Haley said although CEA is separate from the school district and the county, the CEA’s president and its members are county employees and are still eligible for audits. 

Meg Herring, a Chesterfield parent at the school board meeting,  said teachers reached out to her saying they feared retaliation if they spoke out against the 100 percent virtual classes.

“I have direct evidence that comments are being dismissed, discouraged and deleted from the politically lobbied teacher’s union page,” Herring said.

President of the CEA Sonia Smith denied the bullying allegations. She said that there have been many negative comments posted on the association's Facebook page about virtual learning. Smith says those were deleted by someone who helps her administer the page.

 “Because [the comments] can become a bit alarming and could incite additional negative dialogue,” Smith said.

Smith said that the CEA has been advocating for a virtual start to the school year, and that disagreements are bound to happen.

“I'm not saying that we always have to agree, but when there is disagreement, I'm always accepting of that. And I provide insight to the best of my ability as an individual, but nowhere from you know, from like an official CEA stance has there been bullying,” Smith said.

Smith said that having a disagreement on social media can be taken out of context and rise to the level of an argument. 

“Because they are with words, and it's not face to face conversation,”  Smith said. “There's a lot of connotation that takes place on behalf of the person that is reading the comments.” 

Daugherty told Haley last week he fully supports the investigation.

Haley says once the internal audit is complete, the full report will be presented to both boards. Any personnel actions following the investigation will be done confidentially.