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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More on the St. Louis KIPP Abuse Incident

From the St. Louis American:

Tammy Howard’s five-year-old son normally took the bus home from his former school, KIPP Victory Academy Elementary School, located in North St. Louis.
But on November 10, Howard decided to pick her son up from the school, located at 955 Arcade Ave. On her way to his classroom, she briefly spoke to then-assistant school leader Andrew Sears in the hallway. Sears didn’t mention that her son may have been acting up that day, or that he had allegedly reprimanded her son by grabbing his face and leaving bruises and nail marks.
“Nobody called me to tell me anything happened,” she said. However, the marks were clearly visible by those who later examined him, she said.

Sears has since resigned from his position, and as of December 3 he no longer works at the school. It is unclear if the school is still investigating Sears’ actions. In response to The St. Louis American’s inquiry, Kelly Garrett, executive director of KIPP schools, said, “We have no additional statement on this matter.”

KIPP Victory Academy, which opened July 2014, is a charter school overseen by Washington University. The board chair of KIPP St. Louis is John W. Kemper, president and COO at Commerce Bancshares, Inc.

When she arrived at her son’s classroom, Howard saw his face and immediately asked him how the marks got there. Her son told her, “Mr. Sears grabbed my face.”

After some confusion in the main office about what to do, Howard accompanied her son to the school nurse’s office. The nurse took pictures. Then Howard called the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department because the school leader, Tiara Abu, wasn’t in the school at the time and no one seemed to be able to orchestrate an investigation.

The police officer took one look at her son’s face and wanted to put Sears in handcuffs, Howard said. But Howard’s attorney, Hope Whitehead, said that Abu arrived and was able to convince the officer to just take Sears to the station without handcuffs. Garrett said the school placed the administrator on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Since then, police claim they were unable to prove any claims of physical abuse. The department did not respond to The American’s request for the police report. On December 11, The American submitted a Sunshine Law request to obtain the report.

After Howard left the school, she took her son to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, where they took pictures and had someone from their abuse and neglect department talk to her son.

“Now I’m in the process of getting him counseling, because he is traumatized,” Howard said. “Why would someone grab my child like that and no one let me know? If you resign from your job, you did something wrong.”

After the incident, a father of a second-grade student came forth about another incident of abuse, Whitehead said. She is hoping to communicate with other parents who might have concerns about the school before taking any legal action. 

Concerned parents may contact Whitehead at hopeesq@gmail.com.

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