A community activist whose work takes him into the Richmond Public Schools says his employers fired him after he highlighted allegations of poor treatment of Latino families in city schools.
Dustin King was one of about 50 activists who protested outside Huguenot High School on June 13. The activists said school administrators singled out Latino students, provided substandard English-as-a-second-language instruction and interpretation services that were inadequate to facilitate communication among parents, students and administrators.
Before the protest, King outlined publicly on Facebook the conditions he says he witnessed inside city schools and relayed concerns he's heard from Latino students. Among them, he says "several students feel they are targeted for searches for little to no reason, and threatened unnecessarily with arrest."
King says his lawyer advised him not to identify his former employer, but says he worked for an agency that works with the Richmond Public Schools to provide interpretation and mentoring and to facilitate communication between parents and the schools.
King says his letter of termination makes it obvious that the school complained to his employer about his involvement in the protest. "It had a lot of information that could have only come from the school — like it said a parent from Huguenot High School complained that I harassed their child into participating in the protest. Which is completely false, but I imagine that's an accusation that came from the principal."
A spokeswoman for the Richmond Public Schools didn't respond to questions about whether school administrators lodged complaints against King.
In response to the firing, the activists plan a second protest at the School Board's July 15 meeting.
Jonathan Villatoro, who graduated from Huguenot this year, described King's dismissal as an attempt to silence students and parents. "I feel like the principal taking Dustin out of the school for basically doing his job and hearing out the students, it was wrong," he says.