by Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer
A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has sided with a student at Tacony Academy Charter School who said he was bullied and then wrongly expelled.
In an order filed Thursday, Judge Linda Carpenter overturned the expulsion of Romeo Glover, 18. She said evidence did not support the charter’s contention that Glover had instigated an after-school attack near a bus stop involving a classmate who had been tormenting him for months.“ The neutral adult witnesses testified that [Glover] was the victim of the fight and that another student had a knife,” Carpenter wrote.
The judge also found that the school violated Glover’s rights by failing to follow state law in the expulsion hearing. She said the school’s “evidence” amounted to a summary of undated, handwritten statements from other students. The students were not under oath and did not testify, and Glover’s attorney was not able to question them. Carpenter wrote that “it appears that the school rubber-stamped the decision of the school’s principal and the lawyer that represented the school here in court.” Glover, now a senior, said Friday, “I’m happy. Justice is served.”
Laurie R. Jubelirer, the attorney who represented Glover and his parents, Fatima and Randy, said she and her clients were pleased with Carpenter’s order reversing the expulsion. Jubelirer said the Glovers believe the ruling “shows how important it is for people to stand up for themselves when a school violates a student’s rights.” Both Naimah Holliday, Tacony’s principal, and the law firm that represents the school declined to comment Friday. Glover and his parents maintained that charter school officials had berated him for not reporting the bullying, and that a counselor told him it was his fault the assault happened because he had not told about the abuse. Glover said that although he did not use the word bullying, he had told Holliday about being pelted with erasers but she brushed it off. Under court order, Glover had been permitted to remain at Tacony during the appeal.
In an Inquirer and Daily News interview in February 2016, Glover, then a junior at the charter at 6201 Keystone St., said he had endured months of bullying from another male student. He said he was taunted almost every day by the student, who called him gay, threw erasers at him in a stairwell, and made slurs because of his long hair. Glover said others observed the behavior but were too frightened to say anything because the other student was popular and had a reputation for fighting. The insults came to a head on Jan. 8, 2016, at a bus stop on Torresdale Avenue, Glover said, when the other student showed him a pocketknife and warned him to stay away from a young woman whom Glover was dating.
Glover said that student and others then attacked, punching him in the head and kicking him after he blacked out and fell to the ground. Although the assault was witnessed by four neighborhood residents who gave statements, and Glover had a police report and records from Nazareth Hospital, where he was treated for bruises, Tacony suspended and later expelled him. The findings of fact adopted by the Tacony board in an expulsion hearing in February 2016 said that some students told the principal that Glover and two other students had attacked the alleged bully. The board voted to expel Glover immediately.
After Glover and his family appealed, Carpenter held a hearing last April. She sent the matter back to Tacony and directed the charter board to hold a new hearing. Jubelirer asked the charter to use an impartial hearing examiner to preside at that hearing instead of the school’s attorney, but the charter declined. Following the second expulsion hearing in August, the Tacony board voted again to expel Glover. Carpenter’s ruling on Thursday was based on documents submitted by both sides and a hearing in December on the second appeal. Glover “intends to graduate this spring,” Jubelirer said. The school, she said, is disputing course credits he took during the summer and is requiring him to make up those credits to graduate. Jubelirer added: “He does intend to make up these courses so that he will graduate this spring.”