The story of the allegedly forged signature of a parent on Buffalo School District documents has taken new twists, making it even more important for investigators to get to the bottom of the case.
Either a parent is lying, or the district has been engaged in a long-running effort to smear her.
Here’s the background: Timekia Jones, a parent at Harvey Austin School, accused school officials last fall of forging her signature on key documents the district was required to submit to the state to prove parental involvement. Jones says she was in the hospital at the time and never signed any document. Parents asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state Education Department to investigate.
Not to be outdone, the district launched its own investigation in which an unidentified “handwriting expert” concluded that Jones faked her own signature using a method called “disguised writing.”
Samuel Radford III, head of the District Parent Coordinating Council, said he talked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was told the district employed a retired police officer/private investigator who has no background in handwriting analysis.
The district initially refused to comment on Radford’s allegations. Then on Thursday Karl Kristoff, a lawyer representing the Buffalo Public Schools, came forward to say the district actually had hired a private investigations firm, one that he refused to identify. That firm, he said, has a certified handwriting expert or “questioned documents examiner” who analyzed the signatures in question and determined they were made by Jones.
Radford said he met with U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. and was told that “disguised writing” is not even a legal term. And Jones and members of the District Parent Coordinating Council say that Harvey Austin Principal Brigette Gillespie personally admitted that Jones’ name was forged.
Hochul’s office would not confirm or deny that it is investigating.
So all we know for sure is that someone is lying. If it’s Jones, that will be a blow to the DPCC, which has been very critical of the district and now finds itself fighting to retain its status as the district’s official parent organization. The other possibility is that the district has engaged in a clumsy and detectable smear of Jones and the DPCC.
The investigation into this sorry episode needs to continue, and we need the answers as soon as possible. It is important for the community to know whether someone forged Jones’ signature, and if so, who pressured that person into doing it. And if the law was broken, everyone involved needs to be held accountable.