Home News Local news Judge Finds IEKHS Principal in Contempt of Court

Judge Finds IEKHS Principal in Contempt of Court


Dec. 15, 2004 — A Territorial Court judge has found Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Principal Sharon McCollum-Rogers in contempt of court. In a memorandum and order issued Wednesday as a result of a Nov. 24 hearing, Territorial Court Judge Leon Kendall said he found Rogers in contempt for her failure to comply with court orders issued on Oct. 19 and Oct. 25 mandating her to reinstate a student at the Kean campus.
"This is not a case of an honest error on the part of a public official in dispatching her lawful responsibilities consistent with her sworn obligation to obey the law," Kendall wrote. "Rather, this case is about an Ivanna Eudora Kean High School principal, who has taken an oath to uphold the law but who has instead flagrantly violated the law and the court's orders enforcing the law."
The student in question has been the center of controversy at the high school since October. After finding out in a hearing in family court that the young man had been absent from school for a significant period of time — approximately two months — Kendall subpoenaed Rogers and other education officials for an Oct. 19 hearing to determine the reason for his absence.
Kendall concluded that the young man had been expelled in violation of the "Due Process Clause" of the 14th Amendment and issued several orders:
– the minor shall return to Kean immediately.
– the school shall accept the minor and assist him in making up the class work he missed during the expulsion period.
– the Human Services Department shall provide him with any medical assistance and other services deemed appropriate.
– and he shall be allowed to remain on the school campus without any unnecessary interference and hardships.
In the written amendments to the order issued on Oct. 25, Kendall added that the principal and school administrators should abide by the rules and regulations of the Board of Education.
Kendall, in his decision, found the principal to be in violation of three orders.
Kendall said Rogers first violated his order by failing to reinstate the student at Kean immediately. Rogers and other school administrators claimed the student was a troublemaker and were in opposition to his returning to the high school campus.
On Oct. 20, the day after the hearing ordering her to reinstate the student, Rogers failed to show up for work in protest of the order, according to teachers at Kean. This led to a decision by the faculty to relinquish their duties in the classroom in support of Rogers for three days. (See "Protest At High School Continues, Meeting Called") Students also marched from the former Grand Union Supermarket parking lot to the Territorial Court, the Legislature, Government House then to the Education Department building across Roosevelt Park in support of Rogers and in protest of the student's return. (See "Kean to Reopen Monday, Justice Files Appeal")
Kendall wrote that in defending herself against any implication that she was absent from school for the three days in violation of the court order, Rogers testified in the Nov. 24 hearing that she did not go to school Oct. 20 because she was "upset, nervous and confused when she left the court the night before." However, Kendall wrote, on that same day Rogers attended a staff meeting with teachers for approximately 45 minutes.
Kendall said Rogers's presence at the school campus Oct. 20 and 22 shows she had no "serious illness warranting her absence from school." Due to the school's "improper closure," Kendall wrote, the young man was unable to go to school immediately as the order requested.
Kendall said Rogers and her staff also violated his order to implement a class schedule for the minor and to assist him in making up work that he had missed.
Rogers told the judge during the last hearing that a schedule had been prepared for the young man Oct. 20.
But Kendall questioned that, stating it was "quite unlikely" a registration package was prepared when school was closed that day due to the action of the teachers. Further, the young man's mother, Colette Angol, testified that her son's registration was not completed until Nov. 10. Also, makeup assignments were not given to the young man's mother until Nov. 23, a day before the court hearing, Kendall wrote.
Kendall said he found the "principal's inordinate delay in providing the minor with his makeup assignments to be "inexcusable" and contrary to the court order. He added it was a "willful and deliberate" violation.
The judge also found Rogers and other school administrators violated his order that the student remain on the campus without any "unnecessary interference and hardships" when he was arrested for possession of marijuana.
On Nov. 19th a campus hall monitor searched the student's bag in the principal's office and found what appeared to be marijuana.
Kendall said the search of the young man's bag by the monitor, Juniel Charleswell, was illegal, and in violation of the 4th Amendment since no cause for the search had been properly established.
"This arrest and the resulting charge were so transparent as to defy logic and common sense," Kendall's memorandum said.
The judge said the young man was on his way to the principal's office to get a pass as requested by his teacher when Charleswell approached him. The monitor, however, claimed in his testimony that the young man was heading to a remote area on campus where "most likely drugs and everything happen."
Kendall wrote, "The testimony made no sense because it is inconceivable that the school's administration, in face of accreditation, and with an accreditation inspection team on campus, would knowingly allow such an area to exist at the time of the inspection, or indeed, at any other time." A team from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools was visiting the Kean campus at the time. (See "Kean Student Arrested on Marijuana Charge")
Charleswell also testified that he escorted the young man to the office where he asked to call his mother.
While the young man was on the phone Charleswell searched his backpack, which was strapped on his back, and found the marijuana.
"The court found that nothing about the young man's behavior warranted the search of his person or personal belongings," Kendall said. "The court finds that the young man's arrest was nothing more than another brazen attempt by the principal and those acting in concert with her to violate the order that he not be harassed while on campus."
Kendall said further that the court takes "judicial notice" that Charleswell, a former police officer, was discharged from the Police Department for "felonious misconduct."
The court further noted on Dec. 8 Charleswell was also arrested and charged with conspiracy, grand larceny, aiding and abetting and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in connection with the alleged theft of $1,000 worth of goods at the Plaza Extra Supermarket in St. Thomas by another Kean student.
Because of this, Kendall ruled Charleswell's testimony as lacking credibility.
The judge added, "Given this conduct and the principal's open defiance of the court orders that the minor return to school, the court could reasonably infer that not only was the minor entrapped by the monitor but that he could have very well have planted that marijuana in the minor's backpack."
Kendall said in his order he is giving Rogers the opportunity to "purge" herself from the contempt charge by complying with his previous orders.

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