Julius Hill's summer trip to Europe was miserable. The 13-year-old Greiner Middle School student was one of several students who signed up for a nine-day tour of Italy and Spain organized and led by his teacher Vicki Reed. While there, Reed reportedly singled him out, yelling and belittling him constantly, leaving him behind at a parade, separating him from other students at meals and once threatening "to put a rope around your waist or your neck. Which one would you prefer?'"
But Hill wasn't quite alone in his misery. DISD released an internal investigation today into the trip concluding that "Reed's conduct was unprofessional and she mistreated, neglected, and demeaned students and parents"; that she singled out Julius Hill for punishment; and that the abuse was both verbal and physical.
The trip, which Reed arranged through a private company called EF Educational Tours, was not sponsored by DISD. Nevertheless, investigators conclude that her behavior was egregious enough to merit her termination and outline a day-by-day portrait of mind-bogglingly irresponsible behavior.
The names of parents and students, who were aged 11 - 15, were redacted by DISD to comply with federal educational privacy law. The details below are from a complaint by a parent chaperone on the trip and were subsequently confirmed by DISD through interviews with other parents and students. Reed's responses come from a statement she provided to district investigators.
June 13: As the group was passing through security at DFW Airport, Reed received a call from a parent alerting her that she and her daughter were running a few minutes late.
"Mrs. Reed told everyone in the group to keep walking and never mind the child left behind," the chaperone said. "Mrs. Reed said that since she was running late she should be able to find us."
Reed: "I waited for her on the other side of security, waved to her parents as she went thru security, and walked her to the gate."
June 14: The group arrives in Rome in the early morning. Immediately, one of the girls starts having trouble with her luggage. "Mrs. Reed told everyone to continue walking and don't worry about her," the parent chaperone recalled.
The problem very quickly metastasized, and soon there were four girls missing from the group. As time ticked away -- the chaperone estimates they were gone for more than an hour -- Reed became increasingly frantic and called one of the girls' cell phones.
"Where are you," she barked into the phone, before realizing that it was the girl's mother who answered. Thinking fast, she told the now-worried parent that she was just testing the phone line and that everything was fine."
Reed: "From the time we departed the plane to the time my group was all together was about 15 minutes. Assuming (one of the three girls) had her phone, I tried calling her. ... Her mother answered and I told her everything was fine, as we were in a secure area and I was not worried."
June 15: After spending the morning touring Rome, Reed and EFT's in-country tour guide, Roberto, gave everyone a couple of hours of free time to go find lunch and shop, with instructions to be back by 2:15 p.m.
One group of students and chaperones was a bit late. When they returned, they saw Reed grabbing a boy violently by the arm (this is most likely Julius) before turning her attention to the parent chaperones.
"You are not on vacation!" one remembers Reed shouting. "You are only a guest! You are not mothers here!!! Your daughters are not yours," adding that "You ruined my vacation. All I wanted to do was see the Coliseum and now I'm going to miss it because of you!"
Reed: "I never told the parents that they had ruined my vacation. Moreover, this was not my vacation."
June 16: They were in Assisi now. After breakfast, Reed rushed into the girls' room smiling and told them she had a surprise. "Is it rock climbing?" one asked. "A magic show?" asked another. Reed just smiled and said it would be a surprise.
The surprise turned out to be a trip to the disco, which left many of the kids disappointed. Reed reportedly had to cajole them into going, telling at least one girl, a 14-year-old, that it would be a good place to meet guys. Anyone who didn't want to go could stay in, she said, but she would put a piece of tape on their doors to ensure they didn't leave their rooms.
Several students ended up going, returning well after midnight.
Reed: "We were the only people at a small ballroom in a hotel and the students had a great time dancing to popular American songs. This was neither a nightclub nor a disco, and no food was available. We did purchase some bottles of water for the walk back to the hotel."
June 17: In Florence, Reed accompanied the students to a midday parade. At one point, several students pointed out that they were leaving Julius behind.
"Let him get lost," she reportedly said. "Anyway, he's going to get in trouble later."
And he did. When a relieved Julius found his way back to the group, Reed blasted him for wandering off and not listening.
Reed: "During the parade, some of the students volunteered to go look for [him]. I said, 'Absolutely not.' I did not want to risk losing more students. I did say that he would be in trouble when I found him.Once I located [him] at the designated meeting place, I did tell him again that he was to stay with me, and that I was considering sending him home as I was tired of him not following instructions."
Still June 17: Back at the hotel, Reed opened the door of her room and ordered one of the students to go downstairs unattended in search of a Coke. A few minutes later, she must have heard footsteps because she opened her door, but it wasn't the kid with the Coke, and Reed wasn't wearing anything but underwear.
"They said they saw Mrs. Reed's boobs," the chaperone says. "Mrs. Reed exposed herself to the kids by not covering up and opening the door nude."
Reed: "This is not true. I do not change clothes with an open door."
June 19: One of the male students, a smoker who had been overheard previously in the trip bragging about the drugs he took and sold with his uncle, managed to smuggle a bottle of raspberry vodka into his room.
He shared the bottle with a female high school student (she was apparently part of another tour group), who ended up drinking herself unconscious, getting alcohol poisoning and being taken to the infirmary.
Inexplicably, Reed blamed Julius and was "angry and screaming at [him] again on how he disobeyed her once more and she was going to call his mother," according to the chaperone. She blamed his behavior on the fact that he is being raised by a single mom.
Reed: "With only two days of the tour left, I realized that I had been required to focus on problem situations and had therefore missed much quality time with the other students in my group. ... I considered sending [him] home because of continued misbehavior. I checked the price of a ticket ... and it was almost $3,000. I felt that I could not put that financial burden on [a] single mom."
June 20: The final day of the trip. "OK kids, who wants to go to the beach?" Reed reportedly asks. Everyone agrees.
At the beach, the chaperone noticed immediately that many of them women were topless. "That didn't bother Mrs. Reed. She continued to take the girls into the water." They stayed until it was time to go.
At dinner, Julius approached Reed to apologize for getting lost at the Florence parade. "OK," she reportedly replied, "but I'm going to need a rope for you to put around your waist or your neck, whichever you prefer."
Reed: "When the group went to the beach, I did not see any topless swimmers there. I was more concerned about the high waves and my students venturing into the water." As for dinner, Julius "did not apologize for leaving the parade in Florence days earlier. I never told him I needed to place a rope around him or ask what color he wanted. After dinner, I recall telling him he was going to hold my hand on the way to the flamenco show. ... I didn't actually mean it, and he didn't hold my hand."
June 21: While in Frankfurt awaiting the flight back to DFW, Julius asked to go to the bathroom. Reed refused repeatedly, to the point where Julius was dancing uncomfortably.
"Mrs. Reed got angry at him for asking so many times and told him to sit down and shut his mouth up," the chaperone recalls.
Back at DFW, as the parents were picking up their kids, Reed hung around nervously as the chaperones attempted to alert them to what had happened on the trip, particularly the discriminatory treatment of Julius.
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"'You don't have the right to speak to these parents. You are not an agent of EF Tours. Do not speak to them,'" the chaperone recalls Reed saying.
Reed: "I did, in fact, during the tour motion for [Julius] to take his head off the table one evening. My intent was to encourage good manners." As for the rest of the allegations, "I believe that two parents ... have orchestrated most if not all that has been said. They were angry with Roberto and me from our confrontation the first night."
Reed concludes her statement to investigators with this sign-off: "The trip to Italy and Spain was amazing. That's what I hope the students remember. Unfortunately, I did not remember until the second night of the tour what I had been told in Paris by experienced group leaders: Don't ever take parents.
DISD concluded otherwise. The district doesn't comment on specific personnel actions, but spokesman Jon Dahlander said she is no longer with the district.