RPS superintendent opposes new contract for beleaguered school social worker

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 5/25/2023, 6 p.m.
First, Richmond Public Schools accused her of beating a child in her care, but that charge was twice dismissed in ...

First, Richmond Public Schools accused her of beating a child in her care, but that charge was twice dismissed in court after witnesses who saw the incident testified that it never happened.

Then, Richmond Public Schools sought to fire her for failing to show up to work in position that she was never offered.

Now Superintendent Jason Kamras, in a final bid to get rid of social worker Robin Spears, a 15-year RPS employee, has recommended to the School Board that she not receive a new one-year contract.

The School Board, which has the final say in personnel matters, could reject the superintendent’s decision at its meeting next Monday, June 5, although that happens only in rare situations despite the current shortfall in staff.

Ms. Spears has been on paid leave since November 2021 when the incident occurred involving a 6-year-old student who was participating in an after-school program at Fox Elementary.

Ms. Spears was in charge of the program and drew a complaint for her efforts to halt the child from overturning chairs and a table in the room that served as her office. Before he was brought to her office, he had been walking on tables in the cafeteria.

Along with an internal finding against her which Ms. Spears disputed, she also was charged with battery of the child.

But in Richmond General District, the charge was dismissed after a judge heard testimony from two other adults who were in the room that Ms. Spears never touched the child while seeking to bring him under control.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elisabeth Linka refused to accept that verdict and used her position to take the case to Circuit Court, where another judge heard the evidence and found Ms. Spears not guilty.

Earlier this year, the RPS Human Resources Department sought to charge her with failing to report to a position. However, Ms. Spears provided evidence that she was never offered a specific job nor given the name of the school to which she was supposed to report.

Sa’ad El-Amin, who has represented Ms. Spears in the ad- ministrative proceedings, said the only hope for Ms. Spears is for the School Board to take a deeper dive and consider whether the superintendent is making an appropriate recommendation in her case.

“She has been put through the wringer,” said Mr. El-Amin, a former member of City Council who now operates Employee Rights Advocates that mostly defends government employees facing disciplinary action in administrative hearings. “Given her record, she doesn’t deserve what is happening. She has been a loyal employee with an excellent record; just the kind of person you would want on the payroll.”