EDITOR’S NOTE: We last reported on Josh Mello’s story in December, when his request for his daughter NOT to participate in school surveys was purposefully circumvented by school officials.
Since then, The Current has learned that Josh and Rachel have been homeless for many months, living out of van, in large part due to the complex train of events that began in 2019. The inciting event occurred when a Cranston school administrator allegedly falsified a document that disallowed Josh’s access to his own daughter while at school.
Over the past 4 years, based on the (over re- ?) actions by Cranston police, Cranston school officials, and Josh and Rachel themselves, there has been a long litany of regrettable events … suicide notes by the school-aged daughter, fights, arrests, non-trespass orders, evictions, and denial of apartment-rental applications … and ultimately, the refusal of the Cranston School Committee to investigate the original inciting incident.
Below is a timeline of many of those events over the past year as written by Rachel Ware, Josh’s partner. The Current has not verified these items, but we have no reason to believe they are not true.
Timeline since February 2022
February/March 2022 After meeting with Ken Mancuso and Mike Traficante who are Cranston School committee members, we supplied Ken with all the documents we had, photos and videos of the incidents. He told us that the Cranston Police juvenile department was to be in touch with us. We never heard from them. We later found out from Josh’s daughter that even though Josh stated to Mr. Gustovason that she was not to be spoken to without a parent present about the sexually explicit video, she was. The school contacted Tonya, the mother, and not Josh. The Cranston Juvenile department never contact Josh and we later found out that the lead in that department was SRO Roccio who arrested Josh in October of 2021.
After getting nowhere with meeting with the school committee members, in April 2022 Rachel attended a school committee meeting and served the whole committee with letters of intent, citing all the laws broken, constitutional rights violated. The schools liability insurance company called The RI Interlocal Trust eventually said there was no wrongdoing but never supplied us with their investigation report. They never even spoke with us about the complaint. We followed up subsequently never to hear back.
End of June Josh goes to a Roe V Wade Rally as an independent reporter, Liberty Quahog Media, to continue to cover issues around the state of RI along with covering the Cranston situation. Towards the end of the rally, he is labeled a Christian fascist and is swarmed by a mob and then brutally assaulted by a guy in a green and black Adidas jacket. He suffered a very severe concussion and sustained other injuries that resulted in surgery. We had to temporarily close K’s Kustoms due to Josh’s injuries.
June/July Josh gets the three willful trespass charges dropped as there was never one actually in place.Not one witness could prove to the judge that he was notified and served. Though Josh and Rachel were both arrested due to the SRO officers and the school administration saying that Josh was violating an order that did not exist. Josh was going to Western Hills to bring a Protective Order granted to him against the mother of his daughter. The school needed to know that Tonya was to have no contact with her or be involved in her school while the order was in place. We both went to speak with the principal of Western Hills about the sexually explicit video sent to our 6th grader that was filmed in the school’s gym. Along with discussing Lynn Almontes behavior as a teacher. She was so mean to her and the other kids that Josh’s daughter wrote a self harm/sucide note back in December that we found in February after going through her laptop after finding disturbing text messages, photos, and videos on Josh’s daughter’s phone.
After bringing the protective order to the school, Mr. Vesey violated it and allowed Tonya to change their child’s class schedule after we brought to light the issues going on. The court order clearly states she was not to be involved. How is it then that the school violated it?
July 15, 2022 The city of Cranston Police Department left a notice on our door stating that Josh has a no trespass on him at the Western Hills Middle School and the Briggs Administration Building. No tack order was granted as far as we know. And it does not state why the order exists. Rachel was never served a document nor was she ever given a reason in writing as to why she has a no trespass order. She was contacted by a Cranston Police officer stating she had on and he could not supply the reason as to why.
In July we also filed a claim against the city for the unconstitutional No Trespass orders against us. They violate not only the 14th amendment of the Us Constitution but RI Gen law 23- We turned the complaint in with the Cranston City Clerk and left one at the Mayor’s office. Still to this day not one person from the city has reached out to us about our claim.
August 4. 2022 We serve letters of intent to the Principal Janet Antonelli of George Peters Elementary school, where the first incident in 2019 happened. We also serve Mr. Vessy and Mr. Gustoason who are the principal and vice principal of Western Hills Middle school where Josh’s daughter currently attends school. Never have we heard back from the school department or the RI interlocal Trust about our claims.
August 8, 2022 We ask the Commissioner Angelica Infante Green, of the Rhode Island Department of Education for a hearing about our grievances with the Cranston School Department. There was an email back and forth with RIDE telling us we had to get a rejection from the local school department on a hearing before they would get involved. So we do all that is asked of us again by RIDE.
August 24,2022 Dan Wall the chairman of the Cranston School Committee denies us a hearing saying that it’s a moot point since the person who is involved in doing the incorrect actions has now just retired.
August 25 2022 We email RIDE again stating that the School Committee wont give us a hearing and that we would like to proceed with a hearing with RIDE and finally get his matter heard. We never hear back. On or about two weeks go by and we have not even gotten an email saying they received our complaint and request. We go to RIDE in Providence. The video of Attorney Cottone’s response to us is posted on twitter. Basically he tells us he has more important matters to deal with and it’s only been two weeks and we will get to you.
Here it is December 28 2022 and no contact has taken place. We also staged a silent protest with our banner “Investigate Cranston Schools” after Conttone’s response. We were asked to leave by the security even though all we were doing was standing there with a banner silently.
Aug/Sept/Oct we attended a couple of Cranton City council meetings asking for help, explaining our situation and how it is unlawful and unacceptable to treat a family this way. Nothing happens. We go again and two councilmen reach out telling us there is nothing they can do, one says to keep making noise and the other says to hire a lawyer.
During this we are unable to attend various Cranston school committee meetings as they are frequently held in the Briggs building which is one of the two buildings we are not allowed to go to. Yet its does state that these are supposed to be open to the public and all can attend. As of September the home we were living in sold and the new owners wanted the apartment we were in. Trying to find a new home has been challenging as we both have arrest records that involve a school, when landlords run our background we are being denied. Since September we have been displaced.
October we decided to take the lead Cranston City solicitor to court and ask for a preliminary injunction to stop the illegal no trespass. He not only signed the no trespass he is also the lawyer for the city that has never reached out about our claim we put in with the city back in July. Unfortunately because of the job title he has, he has immunity and can not be held accountable for the decisions he makes.
October 18 I sent an email to Mr.Vesey and the school department opting my child out of any surveys, the social institute, and xello. I have several emails and a phone call with the principal and the guidance counselor to understand these new programs. I asked to have a few weeks to do more research. During which another email came in about a data collecting software called Satchel Pulse that can flag an intervention on the backend. I immediately said no. WIthout me knowing, the principal took it upon himself to contact Karisaa’s mother and tell her what I was asking. He took it upon himself to interject into our personal lives. Tonya had not reached out and asked about any of these programs or surveys. It even states in the forwarded email that she was sorry it took her so long to respond. Since he told her I wanted to opt our child out of these, she said the opposite and the principal decided to take her word and told me I needed a Family court order to opt my child out. This is unacceptable. We have since APRA requested the emails between Mr.Vesey and Tonya and it shows how he was going to assume due to her no response that he was going to do what Mr. Mello asked. Then she finally responded with her objection.
October 20, 2022 I wrote an email to the Attorney General’s office, never to receive a response back. We have included that office with various emails over the last few months never hearing anything back from them, A few weeks after we got denied with him we brought the Principle Tim Vesey of Western Hills Middle school to court to ask for a preliminary injunction to remove the no trespass but to also opt my daughter out of surveys and new data collecting software the school is now using. The social institute and satchel pulse in particular. Since myself and my wife are not lawyers, we lost this one as we did not notify the proper folks of what we were doing. We are currently looking into filing an appeal to the judges verdict. We have a motion for an extension of time that will be heard in April. As we try to navigate the legal system and take the proper steps as Josh is representing himself Pro-Se.
We again have reached out to the Commissioner of Education here in RI, Angelica Infante-Green and have not heard back again from them.
Nov. 3, 2023 The Cranston Herald printed our letter to the editor calling out the injustice we as a family are facing along with the schools and the police response.
November 30, 2022 Judge McCaffery found Josh not guilty of resisting legal or illegal arrest, but guilty of disorderly conduct and having weapons other than firearms. He puts in for an appeal and is now taking his to superior court.
After the trial we requested and received Josh’s file from the former attorney. It was an incomplete file but had alarming evidence that should exonerate Josh. We filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Board about the lack of representation his lawyer provided.
On December 7, 2022 we filed a FERPA Complaint also known as PPRA complaint about the surveys and the personal information the school is trying to collect. We believe these surveys and data collecting software violate the 8 protected areas under that act. We are currently speaking with a man in that office about our complaint.
After speaking with them about the PPRA complaint we sent an email to Principal Vesey asking to see the surveys and questions that Karissa has taken and to know when further surveys will be given and what is in them. Under the law as parents we have the right to inspect and view all material our children are exposed to. Whether we come in and see or if they supply copies. We sent that email December 14, 2022.
December 28, 2022 we got a response form the assistant superintendent Norma Cole about the information in the surveys and the questions satchel pulse askes the children. We found out that even after Josh opted his daughter out they had her participate in a survey. We got a 72 page document about the questions she had to answer for the Win at Social Survey. We were then told that Satchel Pulse does not want the questions to be shared with anyone. Which I believe is a direct violation of the PPRA. We will be forwarding this information to the PPRA complaint and see what the next steps are.
December 29, 2022 we also filled out and filed a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Department about the treatment we are receiving from the Cranston School department and the city of Cranston. We dropped it off at the 17th Floor 1 Financial Plaza, Providence RI. The woman who forwarded our complaint to the correct individual was Brianne Campatelli.
Jan 3, 2023 We submitted a formal complaint again requesting a hearing with RIDE. We want a hearing about the teachers actions, the principal’s denial of opting out, the no trespass orders.
Jan. 5. 2023 After contacting the legal department and the clerk’s office at Cranston City Hall as we have never heard back from anyone in regards to our complaint with the city. The city solicitor Chris Millea reaches out. He does not give a reason why since July of 2022 no one has reached out. He then provides a form we can fill out to try and get compensation for our grievances with the city.
January 18, 2023 Mr, Cevallos from the Pacific Justice Institute responded with what they could assist with and what they could not. Unfortunately being that they do not have any affiliated lawyers in RI they have limited help for us. They stated that the no trespass order is beyond the scope of PJI means to help myself but may be able to help Josh as he is the biological farther expect we can not get in writing the reason for the no trespass. They did offer to write a letter to Satchel Pulse as they also agree that the Pupil Protection Act clearly states that parents have the legal right to review and screen a government sponsored survey. They need a lawyer in RI to sign off on it. We have been unable to find one to do so and are actively looking.
Jan 26. 2023 Vilma from RIDE states we will finally have a hearing on Feb 7 and that all topics will be heard in a pre trail conference with the Cranston School departments Attorney Cascione.
Jan 29, 2023 I emailed the city solicitor for Cranston Chris Millea asking if he can put into writing why Josh and I have No Trespass order on us. We have never heard back. I included in that email Alejandro Cevallos who is a Law Clerk for the Pacific Justice Institute who has been looking into our case to see how they can help. We have been speaking with him since January 3.
Feb 1, 2023 Josh sent a letter to the Cranston Superintendent and RIDE opting out his daughter from all surveys, screeners and questionnaires. He stated the laws/statutes they were violating. The school responded that they received it and that Josh would need a family court order to opt her out.
February 5, 2023 we submitted an OCR complaint with the Boston Office after the RI office stated we needed to put our complaint in with that office. February 7, 2023 Pre Trail Conference with RIDE. They tell us that since Janet Antonelli is now retired that they do not have the ability to do anything with that matter. (even though we have been asking for a hearing since 2019) they explained how the no trespass order was not their jurisdiction, as for the complaint in about Mr. Vesey and him overstepped his authority and denied Josh his parental rights, we kept being told that we were not wording what we wanted properly, and we kept getting the runaround, and they never addressed the teachers actions that caused our daughter to write the self harm note.
We have also contacted and spoken with Inside the Classroom on twitter who connected us with Shawn McBreairty and his podcast. He then interviewed Josh and I on his podcast Maine Source for the Truth in February.
I have been speaking with the director of Parents Rights in Education, Suzanne Gallager, who put us in touch with the Pacific Justice Institute. I have signed the agreement and will be opening the RI Chapter of Parents Rights in Education. I just met this week with Ed from EdChoice RI continuing our efforts to network and bring chance and awareness to this situation. We have emails to provide if needed.