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American News Apr 6, 2022 6:11 PM EST

Father faces criminal charges in Virginia for accusing education activist of 'grooming'

(Photo of Harry Jackson courtesy Asra Nomani) It was very disturbing seeing you exhibit 'grooming' behavior," Jackson said.

Father faces criminal charges in Virginia for accusing education activist of 'grooming'
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

A father of a high-schooler in Virginia is facing charges after he suggested an activist alum at his son's school was engaging in "grooming" behavior toward students. Harry Jackson's son attends the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, Virg., and witnessed the activist alum engaging in what he felt was sketchy behavior toward a high-school senior on a Zoom call.

The call, in which the father, former Naval intelligence officer Harry Jackson and TJ Alumni Action Group member Jorge Torrico attended, was for a TJ PTSA meeting in November 2020. Torrico works in applicant engagement for the group, and was Thomas Jefferson class of 1998.

The charges were filed by Torrico during a visit to the Fairfax County Magistrate's office during which a criminal complaint was made. According to a Motion to Dismiss provided to The Post Millennial by attorney Marina Medvin, who took the case on behalf of the non-profit Right Defense, the magistrate issues two Class 3 misdemeanor Summons against Jackson, based on Torrico's complaint.

Torrico was back at the magistrate's office in March 2022, saying that "he was victimized by a YouTube video in which Harry Jackson apparently stated 'a lot of parents... we saw... that he [Torrico] exhibited grooming behavior... in one of the PTSA meetings... I didn't report it. Other parents definitely did. I merely tweeted about it as an observation of something that I observed."

The magistrate's office issued an additional two Class 3 misdemeanor summons against Jackson. "The criminal allegations in each of the four Complaints are based on feelings of insult in response to words that alleged to have been stated outside the Complainant's presence," the motion to dismiss, filed in April, reads.

During this Zoom call, Torrico asked a high-school senior, the president of the student government, about how he was organizing a middle school leadership event. Torrico addressed the student directly, asking questions about their process, and in the chat expressed his view to the student that "outreach is very key for equity." The student then asked for Torrico's email address.

"It was very disturbing seeing you exhibit 'grooming' behavior," Jackson wrote on Twitter the next day. "I do work with children and I get background checks, I suggest you do the same because last night was creepy." This was during an exchange about whether or not the entrance exams to the elite school should be done away within the name of "equity."

Jackson was opposed to the elimination of the exams, saying that changing the school admissions process to a lottery system as opposed to one with merit-based admissions was not going to serve students well. Torrico's responses are not publicly available as his tweets are protected from view.

The entrance exam requirement was removed in 2021, and Jackson, along with a coalition of other parents, are suing, saying that the removal of merit-based admissions is discriminatory against Asians. Torrico, the alumni group, and the school board were in favor of removing the requirement.

In a September 2020 statement, Torrico said "There has never been a better chance to remedy the diversity issues at TJHSST. This is the moment - this is the time. Let’s move our community forward, no longer fighting in a competition for resources, but hand in hand in cooperation."

Judge Claude Hilton found in favor of Jackson's group and their allegations, saying that the removal of admissions testing did, in fact, discriminate against Asian American students.

The stated purpose of the alumni group is to advocate "for an admissions policy at TJHSST that promotes student representation, reflects its draw districts, and creates an improved anti-racist student culture that provides the quality educational experience needed to grow future STEM leaders."

The complaint against Jackson, filed by Torrico in September 2021, read: "Harry R. Jackson attempted character assassinate me to TJ Principal Dr. Bonitatibus," and that Jackson "also posted a similar charge to 'grooming' on Twitter 11/20/2020 2:13 pm from his handle "Harry4Justice."

The criminal complaint further alleged that Jackson "propagated the libel to Prandel Singh evident on 12/1 7:36 pm when the latter said 'Hey Torrico—why do you target minor- by trying to take them bicycling." Torrico alleged in his criminal complaint that Jackson "refused to apologize."

Jackson wasn't the only one who was unhappy with how Torrico behaved toward the student. Thomas Jefferson principal Ann Bonitatibus wrote an email in November 2020 saying that "the original question that was posed by the parent about selection for the leadership summit would have been best addressed to a middle school principal, not to our SGA students… An exchange such as what happened on the Zoom meeting, while all within the public eye, is proof positive why FCPS has clear guidelines for which platforms are used for adults to interact with students," reported Luke Rosiak for The Daily Wire.

Medvin, in the motion, notes that "The Summons’ issued for Mr. Jackson, therefore, read as the criminalization of protected writings or statements, First Amendment speech — ignoring the face-to-face fighting words requirement of constitutionally-permissible criminalization. Of note, Va Code Section 18.2-416, the actual code section intended to penalize conduct related to speech, has been narrowly interpreted to comport with constitutional requirements laid out by the Supreme Court in the 1970s."

"Statements made on Twitter, YouTube, or to a third party—while they may be unpleasant to a complainant, they are permitted under the Constitution," the motion later reads. "This court has no power to criminally penalize the defendant for the complainant's feelings of offense."

A hearing date on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for April 8.

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