As of the posting of this updated story (June 21, 2022), the Cranston school committee has not indicated whether or not it will investigate how a father and legal guardian of one if its students may have been improperly or even illegally removed from an authorized list to care for his own child.
SEE JOSH’S EMOTIONAL “In The Dugout” INTERVIEW, here: XTRA Innings: Josh Mello Tells His Family’s Heartbreaking Story #InTheDugout – (oceanstatecurrent.com)
This single improper administrative action, allegedly inspired by a vindictive estranged spouse and mother, led to multiple confrontations on school property, violent altercations with police and school resource officers, arrests, PTSD, explicit sexual communications and images of acts on school grounds, and the coercion of the child to become bi-sexual … leading to desperate threats that she wanted to commit suicide.
Yet the concerned father, rough as he may appear, seeking only the well-being of his daughter, has been painted as the bad guy by Cranston officials … and is currently facing criminal charges. Is this justice?
Members of the Cranston School Committee – and the body as a whole – have not responded to allegations of wrongdoing brought by the father, alleging he was improperly denied the ability to see his child on school property.
Josh Mello believes the system has abandoned him and that there is no legal recourse available … other than seeking media exposure.
FURTHER BELOW IS A FULL ACCOUNT OF THE THREE MAJOR INCIDENTS THAT OCCURED. This long account was written by friends of Joshua Mello and was slightly edited by The Current to remove the names of school department personnel and to make minor clarifications. Not all specific allegations in this piece have been verified by The Current, however, our staff has reviewed enough video and documentation to accept that this accounting of events is generally true, warranting further investigation. The Cranston School Committee is strongly encouraged to conduct a detailed investigation into the disturbing issues raised herein.
INITIAL STORY – posted May 6, 2022
Cranston School District Stonewalls Josh Mello’s Allegations of Wrongdoing
Mello alleges that staff at the George Peters Elementary School improperly removed him from an emergency care card for his daughter, leading him to be denied the ability to pick up his child from the school on Sept. 6, 2019. The incident in turn led to a confrontation with Cranston police which resulted in Mello allegedly being assaulted before being arrested. Mello claims that there was no legal authority to remove his name from the care card.
The violent 2019 incident led to a PTSD condition for Josh, which resulted in a subsequent incident on Oct. 21, 2021 at Western Hills Middle School, when Mello alleges he was again inappropriately kept from seeing his child on school grounds. Mello did provide The Ocean State Current with a copy of a court judgement, which clearly stated that he was authorized to care for his child, however he did not have the document on hand at the time of the 2021 incident.
Mello is demanding the school committee investigate the incidents that led to his improper removal from the care card and admit to wrongdoing. He is also demanding the committee work with parents and staff to prevent similar incidents from occurring again and to create a parents’ bill of rights. Michael Crudale, chief human resource officer for Cranston’s schools, said the matter had been referred to the district’s insurance carrier and the district would not comment further, except to deny any wrongdoing. Actin on this advice, Joshua Mello issued a formal “Letter Of Intent” to the the school committee and Cranston school department on April 12, advising that he would file a bond claim against their insurance certificate if they did not begin an investigation into alleged improper actions within three business days. A subsequent review by the insurance company determined that their insurance claims would not be considered.
Currently, Mello and his fiance have been charged with criminal trespassing. Cranston’s policy on visitor access to school buildings, last amended in 2013, requires a parent or guardian entering a school in order to pick up or drop off a child to communicate with the main office prior to arriving at the school. The policy warns that any visitor who fails to do so may be denied entry into the building. Upon arrival, visitors are required to go directly to the main office in order to sign in. Failure to so say, per the policy, “may result in removal from the building.”
The district’s policy on complaints against school personnel, last amended in 2016, states “constructive criticism” of schools is welcome when motivated by a “sincere desire” to improve the quality of education and make schools more effective. The policy also stipulates that when a complaint “is made directly to the school committee as a whole or to a school committee member as an individual, it shall be referred to the school administration for study and possible solutions.”
Further, when it “appears necessary” either the person who made the complaint, the school administration, or the employee involved may request the school committee meet for executive session “for the purpose of further study” and decision. The policy also states“[h]earsay and rumor shall be discounted as well as emotional feelings.”
FULL ACCOUNTING, POSTED June 21, 2022
Why are Cranston Schools Refusing to Investigate the Disturbing Josh Mello Affair?
On Friday, September 6th 2019, Josh, accompanied by his fiancé’, Rachel, was picking up his daughter, Karissa, from her school. While waiting for dismissal with other parents, he noticed the principal, a woman he had met a week prior, at the school’s Meet & Greet. Josh reintroduced himself and asked about dismissal. She took his name and stated that the teachers would bring the students down.
Moments later Karissa’s teacher opened the door, with Karissa in hand. Josh approached, they greeted one another, and she then handed Karissa to him. They began to speak briefly, when suddenly and abruptly, the principal yelled to Josh, “You cannot take her!” Josh, naturally baffled and embarrassed, turned and asked if they could speak in private. She agreed, then turned, presumably walking him toward her office. During that time, she leaned over and whispered to a man, who then left. Upon arriving in her office, a police officer joined them. Since there was no reason to summon a police officer, Josh questioned why the officer was there, as this was to be a private conversation.
Josh then redirected his attention to the principal. She still claimed that he couldn’t leave with his daughter. She repeatedly stated that Josh was not listed on an Emergency Care Card, a paper she was waving around. Josh disputed her claim. He remarked that school had been dismissed and that there was no emergency. Josh could not have imagined at this point that his name had recently been improperly removed from Karissa’s authorized emergency care list.
Moreover, there was no court order or authority to justify her attempt to prevent Josh leaving with his daughter. She scoffed dismissively, turning to a desktop computer, where she performed a search. His name appeared on the screen, and Josh exclaimed, “See, there I am”. She immediately shut the screen down. The officer then asked if that were true, and she replied, “Yes”. Josh exclaimed, “See”. She followed with, “I still don’t feel comfortable. I need to call the superintendent”.
At this point, Josh reiterated that she had no reason or authority to prevent him from picking up his daughter. She was already there with him and school was over. He turned and simply walked out, unchallenged. Josh directly rejoined Karissa, Rachel and her teacher. They say their good-byes, turned and left for their car.
Moments later, while our family was about to enter our car, a police officer approached them, exclaiming “You can’t leave with her!”. He threatened to grab Karissa, a frightened 9 year-old girl. Josh, alarmed at this, turned and, while still walking, began to question the officer. He asked under whose authority, stating that there was no court order. The officer replied with threats to grab Josh. Josh again questioned the officer. The officer responded aggressively, and proceeded to grab Josh, first around the head, then his neck, even kicking at Josh’s feet, enough so to kick off one of Josh’s shoes. During the altercation, Josh’s belongings became scattered about. At one point, the officer grabbed Josh’s wrist, yanking it violently behind Josh’s back, and, in so doing injured Josh, instantly bringing him to the ground.
The officer continued with his excessive force, placing his whole body weight onto Josh, keeping him subdued. Josh, in noticeable pain, was having trouble breathing. He called out for help and for the officer to stop. The officer, (using pain compliance?), pushed harder while he handcuffed Josh. Karissa, who had thrown herself to the ground, watched in horror, screaming, crying and pulling at the grass, as this officer beat, then arrested her father, for nothing more than picking her up from school.
Witnessing what this officer was doing, Karissa, seeing people recording the incident, watched on, helpless, and scared. The school soon became overwhelmed with police presence. Police took Josh to a patrol car, where he was interrogated and later taken to the precinct.
Still outside, Karissa was curled up, crying and hysterical, with Rachel, by her side trying to console her. They began hearing commands issued from all directions, demanding they return inside the school. Confused, scared and unsure of what’s happening, they were led inside by the principal and male and female officers.
Once inside, Rachel was not allowed to leave with Karissa. They were separated and questioned, Karissa without an adult or guardian present. They were made to sit in the lobby until Karissa’s grandmother arrived. Rachel was then cleared from the scene. To aid in covering up the school’s and officer’s gross misconduct, Josh was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice.
Shortly after 9pm, released from the Cranston Police, Josh was picked up by Rachel. Josh spoke to Karissa, who was back at her mother’s, where Josh set off to pick her up, as planned. They arrived around 9:45pm and they went ahead with their planned weekend.
On Wednesday, Sept 11th, five days later, Karissa’s mother informed Josh she had taken out restraining orders against him, for both herself and for Karissa, because of the incident at school. According to the mother’s own signed affidavit, she stated that a DCYF case worker informed her it was in her best interest to do file for the order. Once again, Josh was wrongfully forced away from Karissa, this time for 21 days. He was also now facing criminal charges, as well as a family court case initiated by the mother.
For the criminal case, Josh’s lawyer subpoenaed school documents, records from Aspen (the official information management database with shared access by school officials and families), as well as any security camera footage. What they discovered was alarming.
Just two days prior to the school incident, on Sept. 4th 2019, Karissa’s mom unilaterally requested, and succeeded, in having Josh’s name removed from the school’s Emergency Care Card, without the required court or legal documents. Apparently, someone in the school’s office administration conspired with the mother, facilitating these illicit changes. The very next day, the administrator changed the Aspen system to update the fraudulent Emergency Care Card.
How was this allowed to happen and why won’t the Cranston School Committee investigate the issue? Was there wrongdoing or malfeasance by whoever the administrator was who complied with the request? Did the mother act illegally or illicitly? These are the central questions raised by this piece.
As further evidence of the mother’s complicity in the situation, apparently seeking to confirm the Josh’s name had been removed from the Emergency Care Card, on Sept 5th, she logged into Aspen system six separate times, one log in lasting two hours. Looking back on the 2019 incident, we know now that the principal’s demand to prevent Josh from leaving was without a valid court order, any legal justification, and beyond her scope of authority. School had already been dismissed, and Karissa had already been released into his custody by a teacher who was aware of the pick-up, through an email Josh had sent that morning.
During the criminal proceedings, Cranston’s prosecution team tried to paint Josh as a violent criminal. Josh was informed that any unfavorable outcome in the criminal case would have a negative effect in family court. Therefore, he needed the criminal charges resolved before being able to address the family court case.
Under duress, and acting on the advice of his lawyer, Josh took a plea, never being able to address how the principal and the police officer willfully and wrongfully acted outside the law. Josh’s child was forcibly taken from him, grossly infringing upon and violating his parental and constitutional rights. This is in addition to his being violently assaulted, illegally arrested, and jailed, seemingly having his rights revoked without just cause or due process, all on the order of a school principal, based on a change in a database record that never should have happened!
As a result of the family court proceedings, Josh was forced into absurd visitation terms, directed by the mother. Now only seeing Karissa a few mere hours a week, at a local Dunkin Donuts. Then, the COVID pandemic hit, and things worsened. Courts closed, cases took much longer, with hearings becoming virtual and more complicated. In addition, Josh’s family lawyer accepted a seat as judge, stepping away via email. Now, standing Pro Se, and conveying the toll family court had taken on Karissa, Josh negotiated with the mother to end the court proceedings. In April 2021, a court judgement was granted, issuing joint custodial parenting, and nullifying all prior court orders and terms.
The second major incident occurred a few years after the first, on October 21, 2021. At 8:30am, Karissa sent her father a message from inside her new school, Western Hills Middle, stating she’d had an accident, and needed to be brought home to change her pants. Rachel, believing it may have been feminine in nature, immediately rushed Josh to her aid. They arrived at the school, with Rachel staying in the car, while Josh headed inside. Upon entering, Josh was confronted for not wearing a mask. It was demanded that he wear one, which he declined, stating that he was unable to. He further explained that he was there for an emergency pick up, and that once his daughter was called, he’d gladly wait outside. Josh was instantly met with further resistance. They demanded he either wear a mask or leave. Josh replied that he would not leave without his daughter, who needed his help. He soon heard that he wouldn’t be able to take Karissa without permission. Josh, stunned, knowing this was not true, feared a repeat of the first incident. He stated again that this was incorrect. The principal then, arrogantly and smugly, produced an invalid and expired order from their system, which was never purged from the prior school or updated for the new school year. He felt increasingly helpless, knowing his daughter was in need, and that he was wrongly being kept from her.
Suddenly, a School Resource Officer (SRO) entered, who was called due to an “upset parent”. He began engaging with Josh and faculty who were in the hall. Josh, experiencing a bout of PSTD from the traumatic incident two years prior, took a moment to step away. He called to Rachel outside and, as she approached, he asked for her to help inside. A second SRO then entered, as the SRO’s and the school administration played word games with Josh, telling him that he could only get his daughter with permission. Josh continued to state that they had incorrect information, yet they refused to believe him.
At one point the first SRO had stepped back into the office, and stated to Josh, “I remember you now, for doing the same things (before) …”. Then, the second SRO, concurred. Josh and Rachel both disagreed with these presumptive and discriminatory remarks. As the SROs continued to dismiss them, the first SRO proceeded to tell Josh how he is now “allowed” to take Karissa. Josh objected to the “allowed’ statement, stating he’s not allowed anything, that Karissa is his daughter. The SRO continued, telling Josh that “her mother is allowing you”. Josh fired back that “he’s not allowed anything’, which prompted the second SRO to tell Josh that, “Your daughter will only be brought down, when you calm down”. Josh, remarked about their conduct, stating they weren’t in control of how he got his child. Clearly offended by this, the second SRO, then violently grabbed Josh’s wrist, which he had extended, while recording the ongoing interactions. Josh was violently tackled to the ground. The first SRO, grabbed Rachels arms, roughly moving her away, and joined in. Rachel grabbed Josh’s phone and began recording. Josh now had two full grown men, one of 220+ pounds, on his back, and another around his neck performing a choke hold. He was unable to breathe, and tried to free his neck. They began to toss Josh about the breezeway. At one point the second SRO was seen kneeling on Josh’s neck/face. After the altercation, Josh was granted an opportunity to stand, and taken outside.
The second SRO was crushing Josh’s knee into a cruiser to incapacitate him. Josh, complaining over the continued aggressive treatment, was then thrown violently to the ground. Bleeding from a large abrasion on his forehead, as other sustained injuries, he was taken to the ER by a female officer. At the hospital, she read over his private medical records. After processing, Josh, was placed in a cell, with the understanding he would be going to court. Nine hours later, he was released on bail, after never being offered food or drink, and even having had to plead for toilet paper.
The police charged Josh with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and possession of weapons/knives (pocket switchblade). Josh was depicted as a monster over the local news. Oct 22, 2021, Rachel brought the current and only valid court order to the school. She handed it to the principal, and was told, “Well, if I would’ve had this yesterday, things would have gone differently”.
During Josh’s arraignment, the city solicitor asked for a no trespassing order to be issued at the school. The judge, seeing the obvious legalities, declined. Josh was taken for a subsequent ER exam a day later. From the altercation, Josh suffered a cervical spine injury, a huge abrasion on his forehead, which left a scar, bruising on both wrists from the crushing of the handcuffs, and a fractured rib from the 400+ pounds of human on top of his chest. Upon reading an inaccurate and defamatory news article, Josh found out there was a no trespass order at Karissa’s school and the school administration/Briggs building. Rachel confirmed this in the Aspen system. He was never formally notified. If not for new reports, he wouldn’t have even known. Numerous written attempts were made to resolve the no-trespass order with the school administration, all of which were ignored, until Rachel added other parties including media to the emails. Finally responded to by a city solicitor, Rachel was told that the no trespass order would remain, continuing to violate Josh’s rights and damage his ability to engage in Karissa’s education, by denying physical access to the school, the grounds, and administration/Briggs building.
On Sunday, February 13th, 2022, Josh encountered suspicious behavior by Karissa regarding her phone. He confronted her and asked for the phone. She resisted, becoming increasingly defiant. Josh got the phone and, handing it to Rachel, asked her to look through it. While he questioned Karissa, she told Josh her mother was encouraging bisexuality. She had purchased bisexual paraphernalia, and was encouraging a relationship with another young girl. The mother, provided and paid for the phone, also using other child-monitoring features and apps. Rachel quickly finds very disturbing and inappropriate content, ranging from sexually explicit text messages to pornographic photos and videos. This content was sent by students to Karissa, using various apps, such as Disqord and SnapChat. One student messaged the he “Wanted to F$$k her to sleep”. Another student messaged, how he “Had all the porn they needed to pay the bills”. These are 6th grade children, ages 11 and 12. Rachel, alarmed, alerted Josh. They began to document the content. Rachel continued searching, finding several custom images consisting of male and female Roblox game characters, each placed in sexual positions and using an eggplant for a penis. The images were even signed. The videos discovered involved children performing various sex acts, including fellatio on various objects, such as popsicles. Some were filmed at the school, and some were downloaded from SnapChat. This content and the exchange of it was extremely inappropriate and unacceptable, and needed to be addressed.
Josh was immediately unsure of how to proceed, given the mother’s retaliatory history and volatile nature. However, Josh knew something had to be done. Fearing for the safety and welfare of Karissa, on Feb 15th, Josh nervously requested a court order of protection, as the content and subject matter raised serious concern for Karissa’s well-being and welfare. With the protective order granted, Josh had sole custody, temporarily. Out of necessity, Josh needed to address Karissa’s and his school situation. He needed to present the protective order, thereby alerting them that the mother, could not have access to or pick up Karissa. He also needed to update Karissa’s address and bus route, as well as the school’s Emergency Contact Card. There was also the sexually explicit content involving the school’s students. Additionally, there was a matter of Karissa being truant, about which Josh had emailed the principal, earlier that day, stating that he would bring in a court order excusing the absence.
As Josh was feeling unsafe with the Cranston Police, and their handling of the school matters, he went to speak to the State Police. He addressed the sexual content, as well as the protective order, and sought a trooper’s escort to Western Hills. He also explained the history with the school and Cranston Police. Josh told them he filed a complaint in January, 2020, looking for an investigation into the mother, the school’s improper conduct, and assault by the police officer. Josh provided supporting documentation to the trooper, demonstrating how 2019 and 2021-22 intersected. The trooper stated that Josh misunderstood their jurisdiction and abilities. The trooper also stated that he would make a call to Cranston. He mentioned that, with the protective order and content, Josh would need to address this with the school, itself. Additionally, since it involved a juvenile, and wasn’t a matter they would act on, no further action will be taken by the RISP.
Josh, Rachel and Karissa headed to the school just after dismissal. They entered the school, seeking the principal, but instead were met by the assistant Principal. He informed us that the principal was not available. Josh explained the several reasons we were there, including the desire to pick up any work missed by Karissa. Josh produced the court order, as well as the scans of sexual content and messages. They updated the Emergency Care Card, address, etc. The assistant principal talked with Karissa, logging the students’ names who sent the content. He explained to Josh that they will investigate internally. Josh instructed him not to question Karissa without a parent present. The assistant principal said that they would not, and if any other content is found for Josh to come back.
Rachel and Josh continued to search Karissa’s phone and then her laptop, and found more explicit videos, one being filmed in the school gym, and others using Zoom during distance learning. Rachel soon found a screen cap of a self-harm/suicide threat Karissa penned in the school internal messaging system, under her homeroom teacher’s title. This message was written during a distance learning day, while home alone. It noted how her teacher was so mean to her and the other students, making them upset and causing her friends to cry. This resulted in Karissa being so distraught, that she wanted to kill herself.
With the highly alarming and extremely sensitive nature of the content, Josh and Rachel, headed back to Western Hills to speak with the principal. Upon ringing the buzzer to the school, they were met at the entrance and denied access. Josh stated he needed to speak with the principal in private, but he was denied them access to the building, however agreeing to speak at the entrance. Josh again stated that he’d like an opportunity to speak in private, due to the nature of the content. Josh also noted that Karissa was inside the school. The principal denied access again and pointed Josh in the direction of the Cranston Police. Josh turned his attention to the assistant princiapl and stated how, when they spoke yesterday, Josh was asked to bring back any other content, which we did. The principal then told Josh to take his concerns to the Cranston Police. Josh, frustrated with the unprofessional and dismissive response, and concerned with Karissa’s well-being, requested her dismissal.
Karissa was soon brought out. Then, they left the school, and returned home. Looking to have these serious matters addressed. Josh and Rachel authored an email to the superintendent and copied a number of other parties. Rachel informed the super that they would be coming by to discuss some very serious concerns, among them a screenshot of the self-harm, and the court protective order. Josh, Karrisa and Rachel arrived at the Briggs building, inside the vestibule, where they buzzed and asked for the superintendent. Moments later, while waiting, Josh’s phone rang. It was his public defender. He informed Josh that the city solicitor gave him a “courtesy call”, explaining that the police may be dropping a warrant for his arrest for trespassing at the school. Josh tried to explain the necessity and urgency of what was occurring. Justin replied that there was nothing he could do. They spoke briefly, while Josh came to the reality that no one was coming.
Deciding to leave, they headed to their car, parked across the street, and drove away. About 7 pm, Josh received another phone call from his public defender, informing him that the Cranston Police would be issuing warrants for both he and Rachel if they did not turn themselves in by 11am the next day. We have been given reason to believe that these are retaliatory warrants due to the email that Rachel sent stating that they will seek legal action against the school for not hearing or addressing their concerns. She also included media outlets along with many other people in the city of Cranston hoping to get the results warranted on the current situation.
They arranged to turn themselves in on Tuesday morning. Josh, having a bail violation for the October arrest, was additionally charged with two counts of willful trespass and obstructing an officer. Rachel was charged with obstruction of an officer. They were both released on bail, and issued no trespass orders again on both Western Hills and the Briggs building by the Cranston Police. The mother, though she also had a no contact order, spoke with the principal. She was allowed to change Karissa’s classes and was told he would called DCYF for a wellness check on Karissa. The mother spoke with DCYF and no check was done. Josh was never contacted by DCYF or the school. Josh and Rachel then met with two members of the Cranston School Committee, explaining the events in detail. While they both claimed they were both alarmed, and suggested they would investigate, no investigation would follow that we are aware of.
The school interviewed Karissa about a sexually explicit video filmed in the gym. No parent or guardian was present. Josh tried to have Karissa’s school changed, submitting a request, yet has never been responded to. Josh’s Public defender stepped away due to conflict of interest.
To be continued…
Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?