When evil is allowed to act with muted impunity, tragedies happen.
Brentwood suffered such a tragedy at the hands of three Brentwood protectors and educators of our children. Merrill Grant (superintendent), Dina Holder (teacher) and Laurie James (principal) were involved in a $950,000 lawsuit. In May of 2010, while teaching special-needs children, Dina Holder lost control. She threw a 5-year-old special-needs child to the floor. She screamed at him. She repeatedly kicked him.
Her punishment? Four days of paid leave. Her reward? Continuing to teach special-needs children at Krey Elementary in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, Merrill Grant understood the nature of the crime and decided to truly exercise his authority to enact just punishment. He allowed her to finish 2013 performing a desk job, enabling her to retire. That decision wins the “most pathetic example of courage” award.
Our son was in Dina Holder’s class for two years, when he was 3 and 4 years old. We were late in understanding how to navigate the school system with a unique child but we were able to remove him from what we knew was an unhealthy environment.
For the last week, we have been agonizing over the thought that Dina Holder abused him. Since he was and is nonverbal, there is no way for us to know for certain, or for the hundreds of parents whose students who passed through her class. The possibility of not knowing if he was ever really safe is gut wrenching.
We don’t expect our teachers of special-needs children to love our children. However, we do expect them to have compassion and empathy. How else could you work daily with these children with unique and varied needs if these qualities were not the core of your essence? It appears as if Dina Holder, Merrill Grant and Laurie James are void of these attributes and qualities. Role models such as these should not exist in our school districts.
Did Merrill Grant hope for a different outcome at Krey? Placing Dina Holder back into a class with this city’s most vulnerable and defenseless children is like building a playground on an abandoned mine field that has thinly been covered with hay. Eventually the carnage of a misstep will occur.
According to Merrill Grant, they put safeguards in place at Krey; adult aides. Adult aides were in the classroom at Loma Vista and that didn’t stop her rampage. Who made the ultimate decision to put Dina back in the classroom? Who did not make the parents of the children in Dina Holder’s classes at both Loma Vista and Krey aware that an admitted child abuser was perched above their children? Who made the decision to put the general-education children’s safety into jeopardy?
Merrill Grant is the answer to these questions. Was the principal at Krey, Brian Jones, informed of the lawsuit so he could be the barrier of defense to protect our children from Dina? Merrill Grant took advantage of the parents’ trust at two schools. Merrill Grant must be fired for decisions like these to end.
Was there a misstep at Krey? If history is any indicator of the past, then I believe this question needs to be pursued. I would encourage every parent who had a student at Krey to contact their elected representatives to demand an independent investigation. State law is clear on these issues. The superintendent must address teacher dismissals with the Board of Education.
Why didn’t our Board of Education members – Tobi Benz, Emil Geddes, Heather Partida, Carlos Sanabria or Jim Cushing – enforce their moral convictions to prevent Dina Holder’s placement into another classroom? It’s impossible to believe that the best available option was to keep her in a classroom. The depth and horrific decisions of all involved must be uncovered for future prevention.
As Edmund Burke said, “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” Now is not the time for the parents of Brentwood’s children to do nothing. Merrill Grant must be fired and an investigation into who influenced his decisions and those of the Board of Education must occur.