Judge denies permanent protection order against school board member

Posted at 3:19 PM, Dec 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-29 18:35:13-05

RICHMOND, Va - The two protective orders filed against Richmond school board member Kim Gray were denied by a Richmond judge Monday.

The requests stemmed two separate incidents at the school board meeting on Dec. 8.

Fellow board member Mamie Taylor had accused Gray of threatening her and calling her profane names during a closed door session.  Community activist Charles Willis also filed a protective order after an argument with Gray that same night.

According to Virginia code, Taylor and Willis had to prove they "reasonably feared" bodily injury, violence or sexual assault.

During the night in question, Taylor said Gray charged her and said she "would take care of [Taylor] in the parking lot" after a heated disagreement between members of the school board and Richmond superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden.  Taylor claimed another school board member had to hold Gray back.

Willis said Gray "tried to grab him" twice outside of the City Council chambers.

In court Monday, Gray testified that she admitted calling Taylor a name during the closed door session, but denied she ever approached Taylor or threatened her with violence.   Gray's attorney said Willis had a vendetta against Dr. Bedden for removing the activist from a school task force.  He added that Taylor and Willis "manipulated the legal system" in even filing the orders.

Richmond General District Court judge Tracy Thorne-Begland said it was obvious the meeting got "contentious and unprofessional." Thorne-Begland said even though political process sometimes gets ugly, it does not mean elected officials can take out protective orders at any turn.

Following the hearing, both Gray and Taylor reiterated they feel they can work together moving forward.

"I'm just happy this is over, and I'm willing to move forward and work cordially with my colleagues on the school board," said Gray.  "I'll definitely take different approaches."

"Anyone who has found themselves to be the victim of anything should never let someone muzzle their voice," said Taylor when asked about why she filed the order in the first place.

Two other school board members were called as witnesses Monday.  Tichi Pinkey-Eppes testifed on Taylor's behalf, and Glen Sturtevant testified for Gray's side.

"Hopefully, everybody will redouble their efforts to work together to fix this school system and fix this city," said Sturtevant.  He testified in court that heated arguments happen from time to time during closed door meetings but do not rise to the level of protective orders.

The Richmond school board's first meeting of 2015 is scheduled for January 5 at 6 p.m.