Mom of Suffolk girl who died of COVID-19 shares support for safety measures in Chesapeake Schools

school board
Posted at 1:23 AM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 02:51:15-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Some hotly contested topics were reignited at Monday night’s school board meeting in Chesapeake. Everything from masks to weekly COVID testing for unvaccinated student athletes, to allegations of unemployment fraud were discussed.

Parent and state delegate candidate Melanie Cornelisse was taken away in handcuffs outside the school administration building after she used her time at the podium to call out the school board chair.

Cornelisse addressed Victoria Proffitt over allegations of fraud stemming from the chair’s unemployment claim last year. She referenced an article about a police investigation regarding Poffitt’s unemployment benefits.

“Our chairwoman, Victoria Proffitt, collected unemployment benefits while she served in her elected role, paid by our tax dollars,” Cornelisse said.

Cornelisse was then interrupted by the board and asked to stop speaking as they were striking the gavel. The Chesapeake parent then agreed to leave the meeting and stepped outside.

Police then asked Cornelisse to leave school grounds, but when she refused, she was arrested for trespassing.

“Victoria Proffitt must be really, really, sorry that the truth is going to get out,” Cornelisse said as she was being put into the cop car.

Cornelisse told News 3 her First Amendment rights were violated at the meeting. She said she’s spoken at school board meetings countless times and has never had an issue until Monday night when she brought up the allegations against Proffitt who she said is running for Commissioner of Revenue.

“I didn't get to say even a minute of my speech before they decided to haul me up in handcuffs,” Cornelisse said. “Ask Victoria Proffitt. Go back and look and see what Victoria Proffitt did. She committed fraud.”

Proffitt’s lawyer said there was a sixth-month long investigation but there was nothing improper done and the case was closed. No charges were ever filed against Proffitt.

They claim this is a campaign stunt. Cornelisse is running for office as a Democrat in the state House of Delegates district 78.

“I just have been in politics and Chesapeake since 2010, and this is not the way that Chesapeake does politics,” Proffitt said. “This maliciousness that has happened towards me through this last 6, 7, 8 months, that has affected my life. This is not the way that we want to do politics and Chesapeake, and it really saddens me that it has come to some people doing politics like this for good people.”

Meantime, Suffolk mother and Chesapeake teacher Nicole Sperry shared a stern message at the meeting Monday for anyone listening.

“COVID is not over,” said Sperry. “No matter what people, who have been standing up here have said.”

Sperry lost her little girl Teresa last month from COVID-19 complications. She said her 10-year-old daughter was healthy when she came down with the illness.

“I was sitting next to my healthy daughter’s deathbed,” she said. “She died five days after showing symptoms.”

Related: Parents heartbroken after Suffolk elementary student dies from COVID-19 complications

Sperry was visibly distraught. She told News 3 Teresa’s funeral was this past Sunday.

Meantime, Cornelisse was out of police custody after a couple hours but will have to face a judge at a later time.

One contentious item that was put back on Monday’s agenda was weekly COVID-19 testing for student athletes who are not vaccinated. Parents on both side of the issue spoke out about the issue. School board member Christie New Craig reversed her stance from the September 27 meeting. Monday night, she changed her vote to no longer support the weekly testing, adding that she wasn’t able to go to the planning meeting ahead of the board meeting and she initially thought it was a state mandate.

The ongoing debates have become so divisive that people had to walk through metal detectors before heading into the meeting and extra police officers were brought in just in case the meeting got out of hand.