By HEATHER VOGELL
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, March 22, 2009
A south Fulton County charter school following one of the most lauded education programs nationwide is embroiled in a dispute over discipline that has led at least seven parents to yank their children out midyear.
The parents were so angry at what they saw as excessive punishment at KIPP South Fulton Academy that they complained to several agencies, including the Fulton school board and state Department of Education.
The parents said a group of children were mistreated by teachers who separated them from their peers in class and at lunch. The students, parents said, reported sitting on the floor and said one girl urinated on herself after not being allowed to use the restroom immediately.
School administrators said they erred in not calling parents as soon as their children got in trouble. First-year principal Jondré Pryor said he also should have done more to warn parents about the high expectations for conduct, as well as academics.
“I’m really saddened that the kids are gone,” Pryor said.
David Jernigan, executive director of KIPP Metro Atlanta, said the group has no plans to remove the administrators or teachers involved, adding, “We sincerely have learned from this mistake.”
Parents file complaints about Georgia’s 113 publicly funded charters infrequently, state Associate Superintendent Andrew Broy said. The schools, approved by local district boards or the state, are excused from some state mandates so they can try innovative approaches.
This is the first parent complaint the state has received about KIPP South Fulton, which opened in 2003 and teaches about 300 students in grades five through eight in an old public school building in East Point.
Discipline is a hallmark of the Knowledge Is Power Program, which operates 66 schools nationwide. KIPP is known for bringing high test scores and college-prep skills to children at higher risk of academic failure. The school is a big commitment, with long weekdays and Saturday and summer sessions.
The dispute erupted in December, after a teacher made a group of fifth-graders she said had been disrupting class sit in the back of the room. Kofi Kinney, who is also dean of operations, dubbed the group “The Little Rock Nine,” a reference to the African-American children who were blocked from, then allowed into, high school in Arkansas in 1957. The KIPP students, who are African-American like most of their classmates, later became the “KIPP Nine.”
The punishment continued in several other teachers’ classes. Kinney and the parents disagree on how long it lasted, but they say it was at least seven school days. The students — 17, eventually — ate lunch in silence and missed some school activities.
Parents said when they found out about the punishment, they demanded it end and asked for an apology.
Parent India Wood withdrew her son in February after he told her, ” ‘I can’t take them yelling at me 10 hours today.’ “
“They cannot be emotionally abused,” she said.
Some parents said their children needed counseling afterward.
“I just feel like these kids have been mistreated,” said Cordelia Johnson, who withdrew her son in January. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the emotional for the academic. . . .
Sunday, March 22, 2009
New KIPP Abuses Reported in Fulton County
What will it take before the oligarchs have something to say about the chain gang abuse that they have put their tax-dodging millions behind? From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: