Archives for category: Discipline and Suspensions

Leonie Haimson is host of a weekly radio program on WBAI, a Pacifica radio station.

In this podcast, she discusses “How Success Academy Charters Violate Their Students’ Civil, Educational, and Privacy Rights.”

The show focused on Success Academy charters, NYC’s largest charter school chain, which has repeatedly violated students’ civil rights while becoming known for high test scores and high suspension rates. Leonie interviewed Laura Barbieri of Advocates for Justice and Nelson Mar of Bronx Legal Services, two attorneys who’ve successfully sued Success Academy charter schools on behalf of students who have been mistreated at the school.

Then she spoke to Fatima Geidi, a former Success parent whose son’s special education, due process, and privacy rights were violated, the last after PBS News Hour interviewed Fatima and her son about the school’s abusive disciplinary practices. Dany Mangrove also related her experiences as a former operations assistant and teacher at Success Academy High School.

Gary Rubinstein writes here about a lawsuit filed by parents of children on Success Academy’s “got to go” list. The celebrated charter chain settled for $1.1 million. The corporate chain fought the lawsuit for 4.5 years, refused to turn over documents but finally settled.

Gary writes:

Success Academy is the largest and most controversial charter chain in New York. By one measure — state test scores — it is the most successful. But over the years they have been embroiled in several significant scandals. The two most prominent was the ‘rip and redo’ incident, where a teacher was caught on tape screaming at and ripping up a paper of a very well behaved young child, and the ‘got to go’ list where a principal created a list of students he planned to either expel or otherwise compel to leave.

But beyond these two high profile scandals, there are thousands of unreported mini-scandals that are just as harmful to the students who suffer them. Over the years hundreds, if not thousands, of families have suffered from the way that Success Academy gets those families to transfer their children out of the school. One trick they use a lot is threatening to leave back — or actually leaving back — students who are passing their classes and the state tests. This was documented nicely in a podcast about them last year. But the most heartless way they get parents to ‘voluntarily’ switch to another school is through coordinated harassment. When Success Academy has students who do not respond to their strict disciplinary code, what they do is start calling the parents day after day and demand that the parents come get their children. Sometimes the phone calls start at 8:00 AM. If the parents are at work and they are not able to come and get the child, Success Academy threatens to call Administration for Child Services (ACS) on them and, in some cases, actually does call ACS or the police or has the child picked up by an ambulance and brought to the emergency room. Even with all this, Success Academy is still the darling of the education reform movement since, I guess, the ends (high state test scores) justify the means (abusing — in my opinion — families and children).

In December 2015, five families of Success Academy students filed a civil suit against them. The five families had similar complaints about how Success Academy created what the lawsuit called a ‘hostile learning environment.’ Many of the children had various disabilities, like ADHD. Some of the court filings that I have read describe how Success Academy did not modify their protocols to address these disabilities. Also in the documents the families filed, we learn that Success Academy was not cooperative during the five year trial.

Gary wonders whether other families treated shabbily by Success Academy be encouraged to sue by this precedent?


Alexandria Millet writes in The Progressive about the consequences of the harsh discipline at “no excuses” charter schools.

She begins by telling the recent story of two six-year-old girls who were arrested in school for having a temper tantrum. They were taken to the police station, where their mug shots were taken. Eventually, in response to public outrage, the charges were dropped, and the school resource officer was fired. This happened at a no-excuses charter school where compliance is the highest value.

Are higher test scores worth the harsh discipline?

Achievement First is a Connecticut-based charter chain known for its no-excuses style, akin to schools of the late 19th century.

Data released by the Rhode Island Department of Education show that one of the AF charters in Rhode Island has a sky-high suspension rate.

The school in question is a K-4 school.

PROVIDENCE — A charter elementary school run by Achievement First had among the highest out-of-school suspension rates in the state during the last school year, according to data recently released by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

The Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy, a kindergarten-through-grade-4 school, has the fourth-highest suspension rate in the state among all schools, at 47.5 incidents per 100 students. The rate represents the total number of suspensions, not the the number of students suspended. Some students may have been suspended multiple times.

The academy has 460 students. Achievement First has a total enrollment of 1,127 students.

The only schools with higher rates of suspension were an alternative academy in the Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton school district, the West Broadway Middle School in Providence, and Hamlet Middle School in Woonsocket.

Among elementary school children from low-income families, Achievement First has the highest rate of suspensions in the state, the second-highest rate among black students, the second-highest among students learning English and the third-highest among Latino students.

Elizabeth Winangun, the charter school’s director of external relations, said the mayoral academy suspended 14 percent of its students during the 2017-2018 school year.

“This [school] year,” she said, “we committed to significantly reducing that number. We put a plan of action in place, and I am happy to report that it is working. Year to date, our suspension rate is below 1 percent, an all-time low.”

Parents of students at a Colorado charter school filed a federal lawsuit claiming infringement of the atudents’ First Amendment rights after the principal suspended the entire high school for refusing to recite the school pledge.

“Students at Victory Preparatory Academy said their First Amendment rights were violated, last year on September 28, during a school assembly. According to the lawsuit, after standing and reciting the United States Pledge of Allegiance, the students chose not to participate in the school’s own pledge in protest of “certain VPA ( Victory Preparatory Academy) policies and practices” which they elaborated on in a letter given to the school’s Chief Executive Officer Ron Jajdelski.”

Charters can treat their “scholars” in an authoritarian way when they are in elementary school, but high school students won’t be bullied.

Peter Greene checked into this story and concluded that the charter was at war with the First Amendment. He has more detail and explains why the students refused to recite the school pledge. He also says this is an example of a charter operator who believes he is exempt from the laws known to every other school administrator.

No excuses!

Newark’s largest charter-school network suspends students with disabilities at a disproportionately high rate, violating their rights, according to a new complaint filed with the state.

The complaint alleges that North Star Academy gave suspensions to 29 percent of students with disabilities during the 2016-17 school year. The network disputes the complaint’s allegations and says the actual figure was 22 percent.

North Star removed students with disabilities from their classrooms for disciplinary reasons, including suspensions and expulsions, 269 times that school year, according to the complaint filed by an attorney at the Education & Health Law Clinic at Rutgers Law School in Newark. The complaint is based on state data and reports by parents who contacted the clinic.

Those numbers stand in sharp contrast to ones at Newark Public Schools, where students with disabilities were sent out for disciplinary reasons just 87 times that school year, according to state data. Overall, just 1.3 percent of special-education students and 1.1 percent of all students were suspended in 2016-17, according to the attorney’s analysis of state data. Excluding North Star, the city’s charter schools together suspended about 9 percent of students with disabilities, the analysis found…

North Star is part of the Uncommon Schools network — one of several large charter-school organizations whose reliance on strict discipline and demanding academics is sometimes called “no excuses.” Some of the schools have softened their discipline policies in recent years, but others have held firm, insisting that their no-nonsense approach to misbehavior creates a safe, orderly environment where students can focus on academics.

According to the complaint, North Star continues to take an exacting approach to managing behavior. Each week, students receive behavior points in the form of “paychecks.” They can lose points for even minor infractions, such as not paying attention in class or violating the school-uniform code. If their points dip below a certain level, they can be sent to detention or suspended, the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that some students with disabilities struggle to follow the rules, and wind up being punished at a higher rate than non-disabled students. Federal data from the 2014-15 school year appear to support that claim. In that year, students with disabilities made up 7.2 percent of North Star’s enrollment, yet they received 16.5 percent of in-school suspensions and 12.9 percent of out-of-school suspensions, according to data compiled by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights

One way that charter schools get high test scores is to get rid of students with low scores. The Education Law Center called out one of New Jersey’s High-flying charters for excessive disciplinary tactics imposed on students with disabilities. That’s a prelude to expulsion or “encouraging” these students to leave.


A complaint filed by Rutgers Education and Health Law Clinic (Rutgers) with the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) on August 17, 2018, alleges that the North Star Academy Charter School in Newark has engaged in a pattern and practice of imposing discipline without regard to students’ disability status, resulting in the inappropriate suspension and retention of students with disabilities and a denial of a free and appropriate public education.

Education Law Center, in a letter to the NJDOE on August 17, is supporting the Rutgers complaint.

Rutgers filed the complaint under a procedure requiring the NJDOE to investigate systemic violations of special education law by districts and charter schools. Rutgers’ clinical law fellow, Deanna Christian, Esq., prepared the complaint based on the Clinic’s representation of individual North Star Charter students and families, an examination of North Star’s discipline policy, and NJDOE data regarding suspension rates.

North Star Academy Charter School is managed by the Uncommon Charter network based in New York City. Under a single charter granted by the NJDOE, North Star actually operates 13 separate charter schools in Newark, enrolling approximately 4,000 students.

To manage classroom behavior in its Newark charter schools, North Star relies heavily on a “paycheck” system in which a student’s loss of dollars or points, and his or her ultimate detention or suspension, may result from minor infractions, such as poor posture, off-task behavior, or incomplete work or homework. Many of the infractions may be related to a student’s disability.

The NJDOE data examined by Rutgers revealed that, during the 2016-17 school year, North Star suspended 29.1% of students classified as eligible for special education and related services, placing it among New Jersey public schools with the highest discipline rates for students with disabilities. During that same period, all other K-12 charter schools in Newark suspended less than 9% of their special education students, while Newark Public Schools (NPS) suspended only 1.3% of those students.

“Some parents of students with disabilities who attend North Star have reported more than thirty out-of-school suspensions in a year, resulting in loss of instructional time and retention,” said Ms. Christian. “North Star’s use of the paycheck system, without modification for students with disabilities, has a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on those students and must be revised.”

The data presented to the NJDOE by Rutgers is consistent with complaints ELC has received from North Star parents. ELC also noted that North Star’s high suspension rate for students with disabilities was accompanied by a low enrollment rate of those same students: during 2016-17, only 7.3% of North Star’s students were classified, compared to 15.48% of NPS students.

“We applaud the Rutgers Clinic for requesting that the NJDOE investigate an apparent pattern at North Star of imposing excessive and inappropriate discipline on students with disabilities,” said Elizabeth Athos, ELC senior attorney. “A 29.1% suspension rate for students with disabilities is shockingly high, as is North Star’s low enrollment rate of classified students. North Star, like every other New Jersey charter, is obligated to ensure its discipline policies support, and do not undermine, the right of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate education under state and federal law.”

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I received the following request:

A former charter school teacher,who was a strong advocate for the students, currently is working on her PHD.

She’s wants to speak with former, “No Excuses” students to learn their point view from being constantly suspended and asked to leave (if that was their experience, course).

The target population would be former students of KIPP, AF, Success, Uncommon, or any of those types of schools. They don’t have to be adjudicated or a part of the criminal justice system, just former students who were “counseled out.”

She wants to focus on the former student’s voices because there is not enough research on their experiences and when they go to the media, they tend to be dismissed. So far, she has been able to uncover the inherent racism in their ideology (She will be presenting that this fall) but to put it all together, she needs to talk to kids and see if they recognized their schooling as discriminatory. It’s ok if they didn’t; she just want to talk to some kids or young adults to gain their insights.

The email address to reach out to Ms. Williams at, please share this with other education advocacy groups.


Bryan, Texas, has been under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education because black students are almost four times more likely to be punished than white students for the same offense.

Then, as ProPublica reports, Betsy DeVos came into office and began rolling back civil rights protections.

In Bryan, a 13-year-old girl was sent to juvenile detention and locked up for three days.

Read here to learn why she was locked up and how the DeVos regime is cutting back on civil rights enforcement. 



This was posted by Politico Morning Education.

I don’t know which outrages me more:

1) the administration’s efforts to link the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to the Obama guidelines that sought to reduce disparate punishment based on race. As Politico points out, there is no evidence to connect the Obama guidelines with the shooting.

2) the statement that Betsy DeVos opened every meeting yesterday with an acknowledgement of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, and the suggestion that she was engaged in fulfilling his life’s work. What Chutzpah! She has been trying to slash the budget of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and appointed a woman to run it who is opposed to its mission.

Politico writes:

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE GAO’S SCHOOL DISCIPLINE REPORT: The GAO released fresh evidence Wednesday that black students, boys and students with disabilities are all disproportionately disciplined in the nation’s public schools. The report, based on data from the 2013-14 school year, comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos mulls a repeal of Obama-era discipline guidance aimed at curbing such disparities. The numbers in the report are jarring. Black students by far bear the brunt of every type of discipline – from in-school suspensions to expulsions and school-related arrests. For example: While black students accounted for 15.5 percent of all public school students, they represented about 39 percent of students suspended from school. Here are some of the key takeaways:

– Boys overall were more often disciplined than girls, but the pattern of disproportionate discipline affected both black boys and black girls – the only racial group for which both sexes were disproportionately disciplined in every way: In-school and out-of-school suspensions, expulsion, corporal punishment, referral to law enforcement and school-related arrests.

– Minority students with disabilities are hit especially hard. Nearly a quarter – 23 percent – of black students with disabilities were suspended from school. More than 20 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native students with disabilities were suspended from school. More than 25 percent of students who identify as two or more races and have disabilities were suspended.

– Poverty is a factor: The GAO found that when there were greater percentages of low-income students in a school, there were generally significantly higher rates of all types of discipline. But black students, boys and students with disabilities were still disciplined disproportionately, regardless of the level of school poverty. And, as was the case in every type of school, black students bore the brunt of it. In high-poverty schools, they were overrepresented by nearly 25 percentage points in suspensions from school, according to the report.

– The disparities can be a drag on the economy . The GAO report notes that research has shown that students who are suspended from school are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to drop out and become involved in the juvenile justice system. “The effects of certain discipline events, such as dropping out, can linger throughout an individual’s lifetime and lead to individual and societal costs,” the report said. It pointed to one study of California youth that estimated that students who dropped out of high school because of suspensions would cost the state about $2.7 billion. Another study the GAO referenced estimated that Florida high school students who drop out earn about $200,000 less over their lifetimes.

MEANWHILE AT ED: DeVos is considering scrapping Obama-era school discipline guidance meant to curb racial disparities. The secretary on Wednesday heard from both supporters and opponents of the guidance, according to meeting participants from two separate closed-press listening sessions. Nathan Bailey, a department spokesman, said that no policy decision has been made on the guidance. He added that the department has held 11 other listening sessions on the topic. Wednesday’s discussions were the first in which DeVos has taken part, Bailey said.

– DeVos opened each of the meetings by noting the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and highlighting the continued need to achieve the full realization of his life’s work, the department said. “She discussed the clear problem, revealed both in the data and in the stories told, of disparate treatment in discipline,” according to a department readout. “She welcomed the participants to share their perspectives on how to best protect all students’ civil rights and promote positive school climates, and asked how the current approach is helping or hurting those efforts.” Mel Leonor has the full story.

– View details about the meeting and participants here. In a statement after the meeting, the department said: “At the request of many of the participants, the sessions were closed to the press to protect the identities of participants who fear retaliation, are in active litigation or shared deeply personal stories involving family members and/or minors. Each session took place in the Secretary’s Conference Room to foster a candid exchange between the Secretary and stakeholders who presented varying perspectives on how school discipline policies should or should not change.”

– Repeal of the guidance has been under consideration for months, but interest in it was renewed following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead. Some congressional Republicans have said the Obama-era school discipline policies contributed to law enforcement’s failure to identify and stop the school shooter. The White House targeted the guidance for repeal in its school safety plan – making it a key focus of the school safety commission created by President Donald Trump and chaired by DeVos. But as POLITICO reported last month, there’s no evidence to suggest that those policies had anything to do with the massacre in Parkland.

– The GAO report provides evidence that the guidance should remain in place, said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Scott and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, requested the GAO investigate school discipline. The report “dispels claims that racially disproportionate rates of discipline are based solely on income,” Scott said in a statement. “This report underscores the need to combat these gross disparities by strengthening, not rescinding, the 2014 Discipline Guidance Package, which recommends specific strategies to reduce the disparities without jeopardizing school safety.”