By Seth Daniel
The frantic call came from the bathroom of one of Revere’s middle schools.
The young man – in tears and heartbroken – was frantically telling his Dad that he hadn’t done anything wrong; that he had a letter saying he was kicked out of school, but he didn’t know why.
“Don’t make me quit sports,” sobbed the son to his father. “I don’t know what I did. Don’t punish me, Dad. I don’t know why they’re throwing me out of school. I don’t know what I did.”
As the father listened, somewhat confused, his son just kept repeating the same thing over and over and crying uncontrollably.
“Take it easy,” the father told him. “Bring the letter home and we’ll figure out what’s going on.”
The father is a prominent businessman in Revere who wished to remain anonymous in order to protect his kids. A life-long resident of Revere, the father told the Journal that someone had used his kids in order to grind a political axe. Despite knowing everyone involved most of his life – and being extremely active and charitable in the community – he said that all reason seemed to fly out the door and he and his family were treated as if they were anonymous, unknown and guilty until proven innocent.
We Know, But Prove It
When the man’s son finally got home with the letter, it was a curt, legalistic correspondence from the schools notifying him that an investigation had been done and it was determined that the family didn’t live in Revere. They were to remove their kids from Revere Schools immediately and enroll them elsewhere. There was not much explanation other than that and no real means of recourse.
It was the Tuesday before Christmas Break.
It told them not to come back in January.
Problem was, they live in Revere and, in fact, the family calls Revere home going back four generations. That – along with the fact that all City and School officials knew him well, knew his involvement in the City and knew his current living situation – seemed to count for nothing. It was as if they had just snuck into the city and were trying to do something illegal. It was as confusing for the father as it was frustrating; that is, until he learned a little more.
“Someone had a political axe to grind with me – the schools won’t tell me who it is – and this person used my kids to get at me,” said the father. “They dropped a cheap dime on me with the schools and the schools aren’t even reasonable enough to give me due diligence or even a courtesy call. People I’ve known my whole life; people who know I live in Revere and who know my current situation were telling me that they couldn’t do much to help me and they had to investigate. I know we want to treat everybody fairly, but where is the reason – the common sense – in all of this. It seems the system is so tied up in red tape that nothing counts for anything and one person can come in and take advantage of that if they want to harm you.”
A Sad Letter
The letter that the young man opened had been handed to him by a School Official – who told him that it contained a letter that would be detrimental to his career as a student in Revere.
Naturally, he didn’t wait to open it.
Instead, worried that he had done something wrong, the middle schooler went to the bathroom and opened it. It said he was being kicked out of school for a reason he didn’t understand.
The same letter also went out to the father’s younger daughter, though she didn’t read it.
“My kid can’t say a prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance in school, but the school can hand him a letter that says he’s kicked out at the end of the week because someone, who has something against me, inaccurately told the schools we don’t live in Revere?” asked the father. “That just isn’t the way you treat people.”
Trying to Find Reason
What followed the letter were several phone calls from the father to the School Department. He got no response, so naturally, he called Mayor Tom Ambrosino – who he considers a friend.
Despite the mayor being familiar with the father’s home, there was a reluctance to intervene or put the matter to rest without a hassle.
He talked to Superintendent Paul Dakin, another friend of his, and ended up having to prove his residence – which he did rather quickly. That put the matter to an end, but not without some damage done to his kids and to his appreciation for his hometown.
“Not for nothing, but I’m a resident of Revere now and I always have been, even when a lot of my friends moved out,” said the father. “I’m in the process of building a home and my family and I are living in another property I own in Revere. Sometimes my kids go out of the city to visit their grandparents. Most everyone knows all this and someone decided to use this circumstance against me. All I’m saying is that this could have been dismissed without much effort. I’m not talking about some good ol’ boy favor or something, just common sense from people who know me and who I’ve known all my life. They didn’t have to let this happen to my kids on the complaint of one person, a person who is still anonymous to me.”
During a meeting on the issue, Dakin told the father that he believed the political axe was pointed at him. He told the father that he believed someone might be trying to get at him through the father; trying to set him up for failure.
The father said that no matter whom the axe was pointed at – whether it was he or Dakin – it ended up hurting young kids.
“The maliciousness of this was ridiculous,” he said. “To go after somebody – whether it’s a businessman like me for jealousy or it’s after Dakin because they didn’t believe he was doing his job – the bottom line is they used kids to enact the harm.”
Even-handed or Unreasonable?
Superintendent Dakin acknowledged that the situation did occur as the father said it did.
He said they investigate each and every case that is reported, as they did in this case.
“Any reports that [the father and his family] live outside of the district are false and have been proven so,” Dakin said curtly.
He said he could not get into anything more than that.
Mayor Tom Ambrosino also confirmed that the situation did occur, and he defended the schools for taking care of the situation in a uniform manner.
“His case was treated like anyone else’s would have been,” said the mayor. “We sent a letter home…Contrary to popular perception, the City is very aggressive about eliminating children from the system that aren’t living in the City. That policy is applied even-handedly. These letters go out on a regular basis. In this case, [the father] was able to quickly establish through documentary evidence that he lived in the City and the matter was resolved.”
Ambrosino said they are considering changing the way they notify parents of such circumstances, meaning that they probably won’t send such letters home with children.
“In terms of the School Department, the problem was the note went home to a parent and the child happened to open it,” said the mayor. “Maybe it’s a matter of calling the parents or contacting them directly instead of sending notes with children.”
Nevertheless, many have complained over the years that the City’s policy of taking anonymous complaints is routinely misused for malicious purposes – whether it is the School Department or the Building Department or any other such agency.
“Someone can still report an issue anonymously,” said the mayor. “We generally process any complaint and only go forward if the investigation warrants it…I’m not going to deny there are situations where people make false accusations. You would hope those situations get resolved quickly. In the end, we depend upon our people using good discretion in these situations.”
For the father, using a little common sense and courtesy would have been more preferable.
“I had to go into the Superintendent and I had to produce a bunch of papers to show them what they already knew,” said the father. “It would have been nice if they’d have picked up the phone and exercised a little common sense, some reasonableness. That’s not what I got, and I expected better from my hometown. It leaves me thinking I don’t want to be involved in a city that treats one of its own this way. It’s a long life and I will find out who did this.”