"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, November 21, 2015

KIPP Administrator "choked and dragged" 16 Year Old Female Student in NOLA

A week after a St. Louis KIPP administrator was placed on leave, pending an investigation of abusing a kindergarten student whose head and neck showed clear signs of a physical assault, a New Orleans KIPP dean of students has been placed on leave, pending an inquiry into an incident involving a 16 year old female student on November 16.  

The story below from the Times-Picayune details how KIPP officials offered a very different story of a violent "disciplining" incident than the one told by video images from students at the scene.  

A 16 year old female KIPP student, who was lifted off the ground by the dean of students in a choke hold, was apparently dragged down the sidewalk in the same position.  She was later treated for what doctors described as "cervical strain."

Notice in the first photo below that the child's feet are off the ground as she is choked by KIPP Dean of Students, Wilfred Wright.


A New Orleans mother says her daughter's dean choked and dragged her down the street at KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy Monday (Nov. 16).

In a photo of the incident, a staff member's arm is wrapped around the girl's neck. Her sweater vest has ridden up; her mouth is open and her feet appear to be slightly off the ground as she grabs at his arm with both hands.

KIPP spokesman Jonathan Bertsch said the staff member "was intervening in a fight between two students," and had been placed on leave pending an investigation.

Rebecca Solomon initially believed the school's account of the incident, she said Friday. She acknowledged that her seventh-grade daughter, 13, got into a social media spat with another girl over the weekend, and that they were on the verge of fighting physically when she got off the bus at 2300 St. Claude Ave. She asked to withhold her daughter's name for privacy.

Solomon identified the man in the photo as dean of students Wilfred Wright. She said Wright told her the girl became furiously aggressive, and demonstrated how he had gently and appropriately restrained her. By Solomon's account, Principal Herneshia Dukes said it took several teachers to hold the girl down.

A KIPP incident form Solomon sent NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune said "both girls swung at each other ... while shouting and screaming disrespectful things."

Solomon said it didn't add up. "She's not aggressive," she said. The school didn't call her. The girls were given a minor punishment, a one-day, in-school suspension, according to records Solomon provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

Furthermore, her daughter called Monday morning sobbing, saying Wright choked her, and that when she struggled to get out of the chokehold so that she could breathe, he applied more pressure on her neck.

Still, Solomon believed the school, because "I'm not a parent who tries to go against any school officials," she said. "I feel like (they) have the best interests of my child at hand." Indeed, she drives a school bus.

But the next day, at a conference, the mother of the other girl showed her a video and photos other students took at the time. "Knots in my stomach started to come. My heart dropped," Solomon said.

It didn't look anything like what Wright demonstrated, she said. As she described it: "The video shows that he had my daughter in a chokehold, he had one hand around her neck and she was screaming something" as he was "dragging her down the sidewalk" from the bus stop around the corner to the side entrance.

Solomon did not have a copy of the video. A screenshot with a video bar shows the pair down the sidewalk from the bus. She said she took the girl to New Orleans East Hospital Tuesday, where doctors diagnosed a cervical strain.

Bertsch would not identify the staffer. He said, "Student safety remains our highest priority, and we act swiftly to address any allegations of inappropriate conduct."

Employees are trained "to safely intervene with students when their behavior is dangerous to themselves or others," Bertsch said. That can include removing the student from the situation.

Solomon said she couldn't believe it. "I love KIPP. KIPP has done a whole lot academically for my children," she said. In fact, "my daughter likes Mr. Wright. ... She never thought that Mr. Wright would handle any student like that."

Solomon said she had filed a complaint with the state Education Department.
My book about life in KIPP Model schools will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in February 2016.  Pre-publication orders may be made here.

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