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

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Evidence That KIPP Is Still Abusing Students

For the past few years, we have been hearing more rhetoric from KIPP, Inc. about how KIPP has turned a page from the No Excuses cultural sterilization era, with happy talk about restorative practices at KIPP, sensitivity to racial equity, etc.  

Don't be hoodwinked. KIPP students continued to be abused, segregated, and humiliated. A Chicago lawsuit by a KIPP parent:

In the case of Beverly Cage, as next of friend of minor John Doe, versus KIPP Academy Chicago and Donnell McDavid, filed on May 15, 2024, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Case No. 24-CV-966), the plaintiff alleges civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and other claims.

The complaint details that between 2022 and 2024, John Doe was subjected to bullying and improper disciplinary actions at KIPP Academy Chicago. Specifically, Assistant Principal Donnell McDavid allegedly left John Doe alone in a classroom without access to food, water, or bathroom facilities on multiple occasions. On October 20, 2023, McDavid reportedly threatened violence against John Doe and locked him in a classroom for over three hours. . . .

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Students Remember KIPP: The "Abusive Caregiver," Part 2

Former KIPP student, Kayla, was a child when David Levin came to New York to start KIPP's second school and the first one in the South Bronx, where she lived. In this second part of my interview with her, she talks about the arrival of renowned school orchestra teacher, Charlie Randall, whose knowledge of the community and its cultures became an invaluable asset to David Levin.

Charlie Randall brought skills that earned him a free pass from professional, legal, and ethical expectations that govern the conduct of other employees of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), which retained responsibility for KIPP school oversight and governance until 1998--when the state legislature passed the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998.

During those early years when Charlie Randall's musical prowess was putting KIPP on the media map, as well as garnering the valuable attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gap, Inc., we find out that Levin is alleged to have ignored obvious indications of child sexual exploitation, rather than protecting the vulnerable children that he gave lip service to protecting and serving. 

Click here for Part 1 of Kayla's interview.

Students Remember KIPP: The "Abusive Caregiver," Part 2

I: Can you tell me when you were a student at KIPP?

A:From the 90s to the early 2000s.

I: So that must've been right after Levin came to New York and started the school.

A: I was in the founding classes.

I: So that was a grades five through eight school?

A: KIPP was just starting so it was one class at a time. [New KIPP schools began one grade at a time and added a grade each year]:

I: Now this, Mr. Randall that you talked about in our initial conversation, can you tell me how Randall came into the picture and what his relationship was with David Levin?

A: So Randall came in about 3 years after KIPP Bronx was founded. I believe we started playing our instruments in the sixth grade. Randall came from IS166. Randall was the best musical instructor in the state of New York if not beyond, like he is a musical savant and genius. And what he was lauded for, was being able to teach black children, black and brown children, how to play music.

So Randall came in and was able to do a couple of things for Levin. He came in and gave Levin some swag. Randall gave Levin the ability to talk to black people and Spanish people, not from a place of authority, but from a place I guess of love and understanding. Randall was actually sent in to mentor us, and he mentored Levin. And to really speak to us in a way that Levin could not speak to us or that Corchran, who was also white, couldn’t speak to us.

And then he came in and taught us music, and the music program is what got  KIPP on 60 Minutes and in front of Oprah, and that check from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gap, and all those things. So it was the music program that catapulted Kipp. So that was a promise that Randall made to Levin, it was like we will make sure KIPP grows into this really big thing, the music program is at the center of KIPP, and on top of that, we will give more structure to the school—you guys have the academics, but you do not know how to talk to black people. You don't really know how to come to the hood and talk to these people.

So that's what Randall did, and so Randall became Levin’s mentor.

I: Now, do you know if it was Randall who approached Levin or Levin who approached to Randall, or if someone else introduced them.

A: You know I am not sure, I was 11 years old at the time.  It was just that Randall is here, and I was told that Randall is going to be my counselor.

I: So you were 11 years old, and he was going to be your counselor. Was he at the school full time, or was he there just part-time, or did you know?

A: Full time.

I: So he was a counselor as well as a music teacher?

A: Yes.

I: Can you talk about your experience with Mr. Randall as your counselor?

A:At first, it was a really positive experience, because I had a whole lot of shit going on at home. My home situation was terrible, and so Randall became like a grandfather to me very quickly—giving me money, buying me things, just talking to me about my problems, how things are going, giving me advice, but importantly, just giving me hope. Because if there is one thing that I lacked, was hope in my situation, and he gave me so much of that. So that was one thing that I really appreciated about Randall.

I: And he was African-American, is that right?

A: Yes.

I: So it looked positive in the beginning, and was he also your music teacher?

A:He was everyone's music teacher.

I: Do you know how long he was at KIPP, at that particular school?

A: Around 2004

I: Do you know why he left?

A: because he got too many complaints about being fresh with teachers and students.

I: But there was nothing about a detailed kind of scandal involving him and students and or teachers?

A: By then, there was a big scandal with him and Sara Martinez.

I: Sara Martinez?

A: Sara was was the loudest.  She was like, look, this man molested me, my mental health is suffering, and I need KIPP to address it.

I: And how old was she when she came forward?

A: We were  teenagers—I want to say she started doing it when she was a teenager, 15 or 16, somewhere in there. By then, I spearated myself- started living my own life outside of KIPP. But I remember when she started doing it. And what happened was, she started talking to everyone about it, talking to Levin, to Mr. Martinez [gym teacher], Mr. Myers. She would talk to anyone who would listen, and they just kept shooing her away and making her feel like an outcast.  Eventually, when the story started hitting the newspapers, maybe like 2019, sometime around there, when the story started hitting the newspapers, as Jane Doe from KIPP and sexual harassment, and all these stories, they fired Mr. Martinez and said that Martinez had a duty to report. And Martinez said, I did report, and you guys didn't do anything about it. Not only did you guys not do anything about it, but you knew about other incidents with the other guy, the other music teacher [Jesus Concepcion].  So Martinez ended up being the fall guy because he couldn't prove that he told Levin.

[Rather than 2019, the story did, indeed, start “hitting the newspapers” in 2017, as this article in the New York Times provided an account consistent with the facts in Kayla’s interview.]

I:  And Martinez, what role did he play, was he a principal?

A: He was a gym teacher.

I: So was he in a position of authority, was he an assistant principal also?

A: Just a gym teacher.

I: So Sara Martinez reported this to Mr. Martinez, who was a gym teacher, correct?

A: And to Mr. Levin.

I: You mentioned Mr. Corcoran, who was he?

A: Eventually, he was a principal, but most of the time, he was a math teacher.

I: Mr. Levin, was he at the school or was he away from the school as an administrator at that time?

A: He was at the school.

I: He was there?

A: He was there, every day.

I: And Mr. Corchran, again was . . .

A: He was a founding math teacher, and eventually he became a principal.

I: And how many students would you guess were in the fifth and sixth grade – I know you were young.

A: About 60.

I: About 30 and each grade?

A: Yeah.

I: Mr. Randall—let’s get back to him a bit. Did things change with Mr. Randall in terms of your relationship with him?

A: so, in the beginning it was about comfort and mentorship and counseling.

I: Right.

A: Eventually it became more. What Randall started to do very quickly when we were in the sixth grade was pit girls against one another. He really pitted friends against friends. We were always pitted against one another—about who was his favorite. It was no secret that Randall gave us money, gave us a special privileges, and there was favoritism for us over everyone else, which wasn’t cool.

I: You would be competing for his attention, perhaps?

A: Attention and affection, yeah.

I: Okay.

A: and he would tell people, these are my faves. But he would also tell people that we were sexy and that we had nice shapes, and again, we were 11. One thing that was unique about Kipp is that we had access to the teachers 24/7, and they had access to us. Because it was required that we add our teachers’ phone numbers, so, Mr. Randall always had access to us. And it could be seven or 8 o'clock at night, then I could call Mr. Randall and say hey, I need money, and he would, wherever he was, stop by and give me money if I wanted McDonalds or food or whatever.

And that would never fly in 2024, like why is a grown man visiting a child on her side of town to give her money. That’s grooming, right?

I: Right.

A: I say all of that to say that what was counseling initially turned into grooming eventually. So by the time that seventh grade happened, it was just full-on, more, than it should have been.

I: Right.

A: and it was always under the guise of access because KIPP gave you access.

I: do you feel like it was happening to more people than just you and your close circle of friends?

A: I only know about girls from my class. I don't know who else. Actually, one girl said that Mr. Randall raped her when she was a teenager.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Will House GOP Investigate Christian Right Role in Antisemitism?

How richly ironic that Trump's House that MAGA built is lining up leaders this week from blue school districts to grill them on their districts' efforts to combat antisemitism.  In the process, any and all school policies that support diversity, inclusion, and rights of all people to exist and live free will come under the Republican's myopi-scope.  In the process, the GOP desperately hopes to peel off as a few Jewish voters who are incapable of discerning hypocrisy, even when it rolls right over them.

I suggest that the political party of Charlottesville torch bearers, the "Hitler did some good things" party, the sympathizers of the Great Replacement theory party, and the Holocaust rationalization party, might consider investigating what children are being taught in the fundamentalist Christian schools about Jews and Israel.

The House MAGA members might start with asking a few questions of how antisemitism is advanced by the 10 million member fundamentalist Christian organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI).  Maybe ask CUFI's chief, Rev. John Hagee, why he believes that all Jews who don't convert are going to hell, or if he still believes the Holocaust was ordained by God so that the state of Israel could be created and, thus, fulfill biblical prophecy. Which will be entirely fulfilled when Israel says "ENOUGH" and starts lobbing nukes into the Arab neighborhood. But just before the nuclear conflagration begins, Jesus will return to Earth, and Jesus will transport all believers and converts to Heaven for a splendid retirement without end.

 From a Hagee sermon in 2006, quoted on a segment of "Fresh Air" on April 3, 2023:

And when Israel finally says enough, you're going to see the beginning of the implementation of Ezekiel's war in 38-39. The critical point is the church is raptured before this war begins. I am telling you, that makes this message one of the most thrilling prophetic messages you've ever heard in your life. You could get raptured out of this building before I get through finished preaching. We are that close to the coming of the son of man.

Terri Gross and her guest, Bart Ehrman, responded thusly:

GROSS: Among the things I want to point out in that is that he's talking about this, like, horrible war in Israel and nuclear weapons. And he's saying, this is the most thrilling prophetic message you've ever heard in your life. Sure, it's thrilling for the people he imagines, including himself, 'cause I'm sure he expects to get raptured. But, you know, how can you call thrilling anything that involves nuclear weapons and war?

EHRMAN: Well, right. I mean - and, you know, that's right. And, you know, he also, at one point, indicated that the reason for the Holocaust is that it was God's plan. God planned the Holocaust because that would facilitate the establishment of Israel as a state. And so that's why 6 million Jews got slaughtered is so that Israel could be founded again in 1948, because that would fulfill prophecy. And if that fulfills prophecy, then, you know, it's coming soon, and we can just rejoice because we're going to be taken out of here. It's really - it's pretty disgusting. Late - after that, somebody pointed out that maybe that wasn't a good move to talk about God's plan for the Holocaust. But, you know, it didn't even occur to him at the time, apparently.

Now tell me, is it anti-Semitic to support policies that will likely bring the annihilation of Israel--and most of the other countries of the Middle East?? Would that be a worse outcome than schools offering ethnic studies courses?

And speaking of curriculum, Hagee's CUFI is about to launch a major propaganda school program for high school students.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Students Remember KIPP: The "Abusive Caregiver," Part 1

Are you a former student or teacher eager to share your KIPP story (anonymously if you so choose) about Charlie Randall or his protege and now-convicted child sexual abuser, Jesus Concepcion? If you would like to share your story, please contact me via email: ontogenyx@gmail.com

 (Last updated: June 1, 2024)

A former KIPP student that I will refer to as Kayla contacted me in late February of this year.  The interview excerpt below represents the first 6 minutes of a lengthy interview that was recorded in March.  I am posting it now in hopes that other former KIPP students will come forward and share their own KIPP experiences, whether they were recent KIPPsters or attended during the early days of KIPP--as did Kayla.  Kayla was a student in first class of KIPP Academy, the Bronx, and she graduated from KIPP in 2000 and attended high school at a private boarding school in the Northeast.

I will be posting the entirety of Kayla's interview over the coming days.  In order to understand and appreciate the gravity of the sexual abuse and emotional abuse allegations set forth in her interview, let me introduce the adults who are central to this part of Kayla's story.

From Schools Matter, March 11, 2024:

Straight out of undergraduate school and fresh from two year stints with Teach for America (TFA), Mike Feinberg and David Levin found themselves in 1994 running their own school program in an elementary school in Houston, TX. They called their new program KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), and with the help of the rich white elites who were bankrolling TFA, Levin and Feinberg quickly became media darlings and corporate America's next great white hopes for solving the urban "Negro problem" that white philanthropists had fretted about since Emancipation.

The next year KIPP Houston became a separate school under the direction of Mike Feinberg, while David Levin was handed his own school program in New York City, where the white, privileged, and fresh-faced Yale graduate found himself face-to-face with Bronx indigenous cultures entirely foreign to Levin and the other white teachers who were hired to build the first KIPP franchise beyond Houston.

Hoping to garner public attention to KIPP's program, Levin and the NYC Board of Education brought in the renowned school orchestra director, Charlie Randall, who gained fame from his work at a neighboring school in the Bronx, I.S.166.  Randall, who had been a music teacher since the early 70s and the founding director of the I.S.166 orchestra since 1980, brought Levin a skill set that he would desperately need in order to make it in the Bronx. Randall brought PR skills, charisma, street savvy, and local knowledge that Levin did not have and that he came to depend upon in his new position of leadership.  

Charlie Randall also brought with him an attraction to middle school girls, as well as a bad drinking problem.  According to allegations from an anonymous source interviewed by Gary Rubenstein, Randall openly engaged in lascivious behavior among KIPP students, behavior that would have gotten him fired and reported to authorities under normal circumstances. Instead, KIPP eventually promoted Randall and put him in charge of starting orchestra programs at other KIPP schools around the country.  According to Rubenstein

[t]he source, claiming to have firsthand knowledge, alleges that multiple witnesses, including numerous KIPP teachers and leaders, observed Charles Randall’s misconduct but did not report the egregious behavior exhibited by both Randall and Jesus Concepcion.

One account from the source states, “Randall would frequently arrive at school intoxicated. He kept a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black in the orchestra room and even offered us shots.” Additionally, the source mentioned, “He would often make sexually suggestive remarks about our bodies, accompanied by licking his lips, and the teachers witnessed this behavior but never intervened. It seemed as though no one cared until he began harassing the teachers. It was only then that he was eventually removed from KIPP Academy and reassigned to a national position.”

After covering some preliminaries, my interview with Kayla began thusly:

I: Okay, we are recording.

A: I want to start by expressing my genuine appreciation for KIPP. If it weren't for KIPP, I wouldn't be where I am today. Your article about students having to earn their desk rather than being given one really struck a chord with me. It highlighted the importance of earning things in life, a perspective I've always carried, especially growing up in the South Bronx where nothing was handed to me. KIPP instilled in me a sense of grit that I'm grateful for to this day.

I would compare my relationship with KIPP to that of an abusive caregiver—sometimes supportive, sometimes harmful. As an adult, I can appreciate the positive impact KIPP had on me, but I also bear scars and unresolved emotional and mental health issues from my time there. Despite approaching my big age, I'm still grappling with these challenges. Having children of my own has provided me with a new perspective.

I recall a conversation a few years ago with a former teacher where I downplayed the significance of certain experiences with what I experienced at KIPP, brushing them off as not a big deal. However, their question about how I would feel if someone did those things to my own children made me confront the gravity of what I went through. It shook me to my core and forced me to reevaluate my feelings.

In essence, I struggled to reconcile the trust I placed in teachers at KIPP with the possibility of them harming my own children. It made me realize that what I experienced wasn't okay or normal, despite my previous attempts to rationalize it. Does that make sense?


I: Yes, it does make sense.


A: And I feel like a waterfall of emotions just unleashed a couple of years ago, because I said, damn, what happened to me really was fucked up, like really messed up, and it wasn’t just that it was really messed up, but it was Levin’s part in it. I think that's the part that never gets talked about enough. I think that Feinberg was held accountable for his actions, and I think that Levin has gotten to sort of skate under the radar with no accountability. And I always wonder if this kind of stuff keeps him up at night or if he feels any kind of accountability to not just me, but all the people who suffer with her mental and emotional health because they were sexually abused at KIPP.  


And I’ll make it clear that Levin has never touched anyone, and I know that for a fact. No one has ever said that he has, but what we all will say is that he knew what was going on. He may not have known the extent of what was going on, but a teacher licking his lips and saying how curvy we were and how pretty we were and if we were older these are things he would do—and he would say that stuff in front of Levin, and Levin would always look the other way. 


And it was like Levin was the one even before Randall came to our school, Levin was the one who came to our homes, Levin was the one who came for our parents, Levin was the one who sat down with us and our parents and made us sign Commitment to Excellence forms, and like we made a promise to KIPP and KIPP made a promise to us. And that’s what makes KIPP so different from every other school that I have ever been to.  Levin made a commitment to being there and protecting us. I don’t know if you have ever seen a KIPP Commitment to Excellence form, but it was a commitment, just like when you get married, right, you sign that piece of paper, that commits you to someone other.


I: A contract?


A: Yeah, a contract. Levin made us sign that same thing, so for us to sign this form and to see KIPP be as big as it is, and it feels like there was no reciprocation in terms of, in terms of a lot of things, in terms of the kids who grew up to be adults and teachers—we only have one who has become an actual principal, for the lack of opportunity. And then really allowing abuse to happen, both sexual abuse, and mental and emotional abuse. When I say mental and emotional abuse, colorism was a huge thing at KIPP, a huge thing.  When I say a huge thing, I always felt so bad for the kids who were dark and they were treated a different way, and that's not just Levin or Randall, it was specifically by the white teachers—they were the worst culprits. Randall wasn’t nice to the dark girls either.


KIPP was just a very, a hot bed of all things wrong with education, but they get lauded for all things right. And the only way that I can compare it is like when someone abusive passes away, right? But that person was a pillar in the community. When they die, everyone tells talks about how great they are and the victim? The victim gets minimized.


I feel the same way when I think about KIPP. Like they did all of these weird really twisted things to a whole lot of black and brown children, but then it’s traumatizing to always see them [KIPP] in the news or on social media as being this maven of charter schools, this beacon of education. It's just a hard place to be because it's so hard to reconcile who you are, how you feel, with the tragedy that was your childhood, and just try to figure it all out as an adult.

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Students Remember KIPP: Preface

Lots of policy people, educators, parents, and even union leaders were initially attracted to the concept of charter schools by happy talk of parent and educator autonomy and freedom to experiment, innovate, and to, otherwise, find relief from the bureaucratic oversight and regulatory constraints that public schools must abide. Even the brilliant Albert Shanker, who served as AFT President for 23 years, was an avid promoter of charter schools in the early 1990s

By the mid 1990s, however, Shanker realized the charter concept had been quickly hijacked by corporate education reformers "whose real aim is to smash the public schools" and to leave in their wake a rigid, segregated type of chain-gang charter school in urban America that practiced a brutal form of white paternalism aimed to behaviorally subdue and culturally sterilize the children of black and brown communities. (See more on paternalism and cultural sterilization.)

And the much-lauded autonomy and freedom from constraints in charter schools quickly triggered the emergence of closely-guarded charter fiefdoms with unparalleled latitude to do curriculum, instruction, budgeting, hiring, and firing most any way desired by poorly prepared white school leaders fresh from 2 year stints with Teach for America.  That is, just as long as the charter schools could grind out student test scores that were at least in the same ballpark as the public schools that were being replaced by charters. (See recent statistics on regular public school enrollment and charter school enrollment.)

The substitution of accountability for student test scores in charter schools (and other schools, too) has had some damn awful effects on teachers, taxpayers, and parents. Cascading waves of corruption in the form of fraud, waste, or old-fashioned thievery have flourished over the past 30 years of charter history. Cheating scandals have become commonplace.  The goals of racial and socioeconomic school integration are forgotten dreams.

But without doubt, the most devastating and unforgivable outcome that has accompanied the near total capitulation of public accountability and oversight for the publicly-funded and privately-managed charter schools has come in the form of heart-rending accounts of student abuse: physical abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. And these crimes against our most vulnerable children have been going since the beginning of even the most vaunted of charter school chains, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). 

Part 2 of this series will feature an interview with the first former KIPP student to share her story of emotional and sexual abuse during the early days of KIPP New York.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Professor Steve Tamari Brutally Beaten by St. Louis Police

 From HuffPo:

In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter), the professor, Steve Tamari, can be seen moving closer to the chaos, trying to capture the scene on camera, when a police officer grabs his arm and pushes him back. A few other officers joined in restraining Tamari, grabbing the man, slamming him to the ground and later dragging his limp body to a police van.

You can also see history professor, Dr. Steve Tamari, being beaten, dragged, and dumped behind a police van like a sack of potatoes.