HSD Named in Lawsuit for Racial Discrimination Regarding Lice Outbreak at Garrett Elementary

A North St. Louis County judge recalls warrants before being nominated for a position.

Hazelwood School District sued for racial discrimination concerning head lice outbreak at Garrett Elementary

Former school nurse Lori Levy is suing the .

According to court documents, Levy, who is white, says she was treated badly following a head lice outbreak at the school in December and fired from her job because of her color and race. She was a nurse there from 2006 to 2010.

Garrett Elementary lead nurse Crystal Nelson, assistant superintendent Grayling Tobias, and assistant superintendent Julia Burke-Thorpe are also named as defendants.

On Dec. 9, a teacher brought a child suspected of having head lice to Levy. Head lice are small, flat insects that live on the head and suck blood; the adults are about 1/8 inch long.

Levy examined the child and confirmed the teacher’s suspicion. Levy then examined the child’s siblings and every other child in the classroom.

The classrooms of the child’s siblings were also checked. By the end of the school day, 14 children were found to have head lice. Every grade except the fourth had at least one child with head lice. The next day, 12 more cases were confirmed.

After Levy observed that an African-American child had head lice, she called the child’s mother. During the conversation, Levy said the mother became upset that her child had head lice and told Levy that African-American children do not get head lice.

The child’s mother called Tobias and Nelson to complain. Levy said Nelson, the lead nurse, confronted her and questioned her assessment that the African-American child had lice and told Levy that African-American children do not get head lice.

Levy sent a letter home to the parents of students concerning the head lice issue and alleges she was then accused of sending a letter home that was not approved by the Hazelwood School District. However, Levy alleges the letter had been modified by assistant principal Shannon Grashoff.

On Dec. 13, four days after the first outbreak, another nurse at one of the Hazelwood School District’s high schools found head lice on the sibling of a student Levy had sent home. Nelson’s reaction, according to the court documents, was to yell over the phone, “Is he biracial?”

Levy alleges that following her termination, the entire building administration was reprimanded by the Hazelwood School District for not using district approved correspondence and for not notifying the school district administration of the school’s head lice problem in a timely manner.

Levy also says she was the only employee fired in regard to the head lice matter. Levy alleges that with the high population of African-American students in the Hazelwood School District, the district takes race into account with respect to personnel decisions.

She is seeking in excess of $25,000 from the school district.

David Heimos of the Law Offices of David Heimos is representing Levy while Cindy Ormsby of Crotzer and Ormsby is representing the defendants. Both declined comment citing pending litigation in the St. Louis County courtroom of judge Steve Goldman.


Source claims Ferguson judge recalled warrants for Bel-Ridge Trustee who nominated him later that night

According to a well-connected source in the legal community, Ferguson Municipal Judge Ron Brockmeyer recalled several warrants issued against Bel-Ridge Village trustee Patti Armanees for housing violations on properties she owns. That action came the day she nominated him for Bel-Ridge municipal judge on Dec. 7.

Brockmeyer was appointed by Bel-Ridge trustees later that night, but was prohibited from taking the bench by an order issued in January by St. Louis County Judge Richard Bresnahan.

St. Charles attorney and Bel-Ridge Municipal Judge Tom Flach had served as the village’s municipal judge since 1998. He was briefly ousted on Dec. 7 when Bel-Ridge Trustee John Crawford Sr. moved to replace him with Brockmeyer and also replace village prosecutor Mike McAvoy and Dulany Harms and William Goldstein as prosecutors. Flach is also municipal judge in Velda Village Hills.

The source’s accusation seems to be supported by a deposition of Armanees, who first says she knew warrants were issued for her arrest, then, after a call to Brockmeyer, learns that there are no longer any warrants. Patch obtained the deposition on Friday of Armanees, which was taken on May 11. The following are excerpts from the deposition with the questions asked by Flach’s attorney, Frank Vatterott, and answers by Armanees.

Vatterott: Were you ever issued a warrant for your arrest for not appearing in Ferguson?

Armanees: Yes.

Vatterott: What did you do when you found out you had a warrant?

Armanees: I asked one of the (Bel-Ridge) police officers to confirm it ‘cause I didn’t believe it.

Vatterott: And what did the police officer do?

Armanees: He said as far as he could tell there was one.

Vatterott: Why did you call Judge Brockmeyer as opposed to another lawyer?

Armanees: I assumed he could get ahold of the clerk.

Vatterott: What did he (Brockmeyer) say?

Armanees: He said he would get ahold of the clerk and find out what was going on.

Vatterott: And then what happened? Did he get back to you?

Armanees: Yes.

Vatterott: What did he say?

Armanees:) But basically what he said was there was no warrant. I think that’s what he said. That there was — there was, there was — I don’t want to put words out that I don’t remember. But, you know I didn’t understand everything. Basically the understanding I got was that there was no warrant. That there was — I don’t know. I don’t remember. I don’t want to try and make up words.

Bel-Ridge Trustees Wilma Abernathy, Woodie Frieson, and Julia Anderson filed a lawsuit against fellow trustees Armanees, Crawford Sr., William Walker, Billy Robertson, Andrea Nichols, and Ernest Debres over the replacement of Flach as municipal judge.

Attorney and Maplewood Municipal Judge Brian Dunlop was appointed to handle Bel-Ridge municipal judge duties until it was decided whether Flach or Brockmeyer would sit on the Bel-Ridge bench.

Brockmeyer is also municipal judge for Breckenridge Hills, Flordell Hills and is an attorney based in St. Charles. He is being represented by Paul Rost of Cunningham, Vogel, & Rost, P.C. of Webster Groves.

A call placed to Brockmeyer seeking comment was not returned.

Bel-Ridge has a population of approximately 3,000 people and covers an area of 0.8 square miles. It has long been a speed trap for motorists traveling the stretch of Natural Bridge that runs through the village. 


Maryland Heights Fire Flap

Maryland Heights firefighter Joe Botto is suing the Maryland Heights Fire Protection District in the St. Louis County courtroom of judge Tom DePriest to have his pay scale and rank restored to driver/operator.

According to court documents, Maryland Heights Fire District Chief Steve Olshwanger alleges Botto was demoted for failing to fulfill his job responsibilities as a driver/operator and was demoted to firefighter.

Botto said he was never interviewed regarding a written reprimand that was the cause of his demotion and was not given an opportunity to rebut the charges against him.

Olswanger indicated in court documents that Botto’s demotion was, in fact, simply a reclassification, though it has allegedly caused Botto to lose pay.

A copy of the written reprimand, found in the court record, says: “Joe Botto is not displaying competency consistent with the driver/operator job description. He continues to be defiant to standing orders and expectations given by his officer. His unwillingness to change his behavior poses a safety risk for the members of the crew and will inhibit the execution of emergency operations with the public.”

The write-up goes on: “Joe Botto has stated that he will require all tasks to be verbally assigned to him on each and every call. This is an unnecessary distraction to any officer, commander, and any emergency operation. He is displaying an inability to make decisions, which leads to the lack of developing or instituting an emergency action plan. This behavior is intolerable.”

Also offered in the court documents is a copy of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2665 letter, written March 1, which says: “Joseph Botto was demoted from the position of driver/operator to the position of firefighter without just cause.”

Richard Barry III is representing Joe Botto. He did not return a call seeking comment. Maryland Heights Fire District president Bob Nichols, treasurer Mark Wells, and secretary Steve Hartley are also co-defendants in the case and are being represented by Charles Jellinek of Bryan Cave. Jellinek did not return a call seeking comment.

Pam September 07, 2011 at 12:45 PM
I commend Ms. Levy for doing her job as a school nurse, she checked the children and notified parents. As for African Amercian children not getting headlice that is totally not true. Allthough it's less common it does occur. My daughter works in a school whose student population is 80 percent children of color and there are outbreaks of lice in all races. The school district should send home info to parents letting them know how to check for lice themselves and the safest way to treat it, with a good lice comb. Beware of any pesticide treatments !!!


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