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

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Students Remember KIPP: The "Abusive Caregiver," Part 3

You will find Part 1 of Kayla's interview here and Part 2 here

Below is the question that Kayla was responding to when Part 3 of our interview begins below:  
I: Do you feel like it [sexual abuse] 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.

Students Remember KIPP: The "Abusive Caregiver," Part 3

A: She said he literally raped her, and when you get into the later classes, I don’t know what was Randall and what was Concepcion. And then I’m told there were a bunch of people it happened to who choose to say nothing at all. They don't even want the drama of putting their names out there and that type of thing. So it was rampant, it was very rampant.

I: Okay.  Now this Mr. Concepcion – when did he enter into the picture?

A: Now, that was my eighth grade year, and I feel like that's when he started to come in part time. What was unique about Concepcion, Randall was Concepcion’s six grade violin teacher. 

I: So Randall was his mentor sort of?

A: Yeah, definitely. And Randall brought Concepcion into KIPP.

I: I see. Uh, so that was about when you were in the eighth grade?

A: Yeah.

I:  So you were at KIPP from _____ to _____. And you went to private school after that?

A: I did.

I: And how did that come about?

A: Um, so we didn't have KIPP high schools yet. And so boarding schools, private schools, and Catholic schools were the thing. And so I applied and I got in.

I: Okay.  Let’s talk a little bit more about Mr. Concepcion. He came when you were in the eighth grade, and what was your relationship with Mr. Concepcion?

A: I stayed away from him. I thought he was completely creepy. Like he used to lick his lips and look at me and told me ‘I've heard about you’. I could take care of you. And I said, no, I’m good. And then I went away to high school, and I never spoke to him again.

I: Oh wow. Now did you know of other girls who were victimized or . . . by Mr. Concepcion?

A: Yeah, tons. They talk about it all the time online. But they are younger than me, so by the time all of this stuff was happening, I was gone.

I: Uh huh.  So Mr. Concepcion was a replacement for Mr. Randall?

A: Yeah. 

I: And what happened to Randall? Is he still alive?

A: He died around Christmas [of 2023] from cancer.

I: Okay.  Now after leaving KIPP, did you have any contact with him?

A: Yeah, he uh, called me every year on my birthday, I called him every year on his birthday, Father's Day, and Christmas.

I: Um.  So it was only fairly recently that this person asked you the question that caused your internal investigation in terms of how you would react if your children were going to a school like that. So that happened about two years ago?

A: I want to say it happened somewhere around 2019 or 2020. 

I: Okay, so until that time you had really not viewed it as you came to view it?

A: I just never processed it—it was just something that happened in my past . . .

I: Right.

A: You know—it was what it was.

I: Have you sought counseling since then?

A: For him? For him specifically, no. I’ve had counseling for other things, but again, the older I get, I’m like hmm, I wonder if the attraction I have for older men is because of the  relationship I had with Randall.  And if these relationships I've had with older men have always been based on me needing them and dependent on them, because I was very dependent on Randall.  You just, as you get older you just begin to see patterns, right? So I've spoken with my therapist about the men that I've been with especially bc of things I experienced in my youth, but never about Randall specifically.

I: I’m going to play devil’s advocate, here, a little bit, if I may: if someone read your story, and that person was associated with KIPP, and they said, well obviously, this was just a disgruntled student who had a bad experience at KIPP, what would you say?

A: I think I had one of the best experiences at KIPP. I think my story is one that was used often at KIPP as someone who came from my bad parenting situation—KIPP came in and saved the day—this person went to private school, college, has advanced degrees,  is a homeowner. So quintessentially, I am the KIPP story.

I’m not bitter.  In fact, I started the story with ‘I love KIPP. KIPP is, I wouldn’t send my children there, but KIPP is very near and dear to my heart because my outcome wasn’t negative. I had bad experiences, but my outcome was overwhelmingly positive. But just because my outcome was overwhelmingly positive, that does not mean that I am endorsing what was bad and illegal while I was there.

I: So why wouldn’t you send your children to KIPP?

A: Well, one, KIPP is for children who come from a certain type of background, and my kids don’t—we’re not even zoned for KIPP. We live in the suburbs. And then, two, well, that’s really it. My kids are so, they’re fine. So there are certain kids out there who needed KIPP.  I needed KIPP. There are kids who need KIPP, and my kids just don’t need KIPP.

I:  Uh huh. What kind of kid needs KIPP?

A: Typically, kids who come from impoverished backgrounds who need structure, who need guidance, who really need to understand there’s something outside those walls at KIPP and something outside those proverbial walls wherever they are, right? So there are people who grow up socioeconomically impoverished, who don’t know there is something bigger and better out there. And KIPP really brings that vision to people, to let them know there is something bigger and better out there, and these are the tools to get to it.

I:  Okay.  You know, there’s a substantial amount of research that shows between 50 and 70 percent of students who start 5th grade at KIPP don’t finish 8th grade at KIPP. Why do you think that is?

A: When was that statistic in play? Was that in play when I was at KIPP, or when I was a teenager, or in my twenties.

I:  I can’t point you directly to the research, but I can find it for you. Probably around 2008 to 2012 when the research was done.

SRI conducted and published a study in 2008 (original study here) that found a 55% attrition rate among KIPP students (grades 5-8) in four San Francisco Bay Area KIPP schools. Similar attrition rates were found in a Western Michigan University study published in 2011 (see original study here).

A: Well, if it was back then, then it was because you got kicked out of KIPP if your grades were not up to par. It was the grades that helped KIPP get their funding, right? So if you're someone who had behavioral issues . . . like half of my class that was with me in fifth grade didn't make it to sixth grade. In 5th grade were two classes, and in 6th grade we were one. So everyone got put out who had behavioral issues or who made it hard for KIPP to do their job.  By what time we got to seventh grade we were back to two classes again – they brought students from IS 166 where Randall was from. We had the smart class and the class that clearly wasn't so smart.

So it wasn't like KIPP took geniuses and tried to pass them through, but if you had behavioral issues, you are definitely put out of KIPP.

I: So one thing that KIPP likes to talk about or brag about is there very low suspension rate. So if they're not suspending kids or expelling kids, how did these kids end up out of school if they didn’t want them there?

A: Because you had in-school suspension. And that must be what they’re not reporting. I was on in-school suspension almost every day, but also, I have the top grades in my class, right? So you weren't going to put me out. 

Yeah, KIPP never suspended anyone—everybody just got put on in-school suspension, which they called administrative punishment. 

I: So, when Mr. Levin heard Mr. Randall make the inappropriate remarks that you talked about, and he react?

A: He would just maybe walk away. It's almost like it was a good old boys club. And also Mr. Randall wasn't crazy, he wouldn't say ‘I want to fuck you’ in front of Mr. Levin, right? But he would make comments about our bodies for the bodies of our mothers, you know, like ‘I can understand how grown men would be attracted to you’. He would say those types of things, but you also have to remember, and I don't know, I feel conflicted about saying this, Levin was about 25 or 26 at this time.

I: Well, let's see, he was fresh out of Yale and Teach for America, and he and Feinberg started KIPP in 1994, so yeah.

A: So he was about 25 at the time—and this was in the 90s. This is what Levin said, and I hear him, but it doesn’t make it any more right. Yeah, he was 25 and it was the 90s, this was part of the times, so you didn’t say anything, but you [Levin] was a mandated reporter who had a duty to protect—and didn’t.

I: Yeah. Yes.  Now, you used the the phrase ‘weird, twisted things’ when you were talking earlier, what do you mean by ‘weird twisted things’? 

A: Can you give me more context about what I was talking about because I cannot—I remember saying it but I don't remember what I was talking about?

I: You were talking about the mental and emotional abuse of students and things that happened to students while they were at KIPP. And the phrase you used was ‘weird and twisted things.’

A: So just imagine that—we’re a bunch of young black kids and like oner half of us come from homes where our parents, uncle or aunt are crackheads, right? So just imagine the trauma of coming in on Halloween and you’re dressed as a ghost and Mr. Randall is dressed as a crackhead. And no one said anything about it. Or imagine being treated vastly different because you are dark skinned. 

We had one girl named ______, and she was treated terribly. Very dark, very much African features. _______ accidentally left her violin on the bus. Randall embarrassed the fuck out of her, not in front of the whole class, but in front of the whole school every chance he got. And ______was very poor—made her pay back, I think, five or ten dollars at a time until she graduated. And made it known that she was poor, pathetic, because she couldn’t pay back—like he made her feel terrible.  

It was known, and in the letter I sent you from Levin [https://www.kipp.org/news/a-letter-from-dave-levin-to-kipp-alumni/], he references the fact that colorism was a thing and apologized for it. And it was. Randall definitely did not like dark skinned and unattractive females at all, and he treated them differently. But I think that everyone treated them differently. The white teachers treated them differently. 

We have another student by the name of ________ ________ who ended up getting put out of KIPP. He was treated terribly. Like the white teachers were not nice. I don't think they were nice to me either, but I was smart, so I got away with a little bit more.

I: Your teachers, what were they like, white, black, old, young?

A:They were all young with the exception of Randall and Myers. And mostly white. And they were terrible, because I could not relate to the student body that they were teaching. And I remember them telling me that I couldn't get into ________ [private high school that Kayla would graduate from]. And I did. I remember them, always having this narrative about me, that I would get pregnant when I was young, and drop out of high school, and I was bad, and that didn’t happen. And I got into ________.

One interesting thing about KIPP  teachers, if you notice, after all this sexual assault stuff started to hit the fan, either people started getting promoted outside of principal by being given really high-paying jobs or they got removed from KIPP Academy.  So they either got really high-paying jobs outside of Kipp Academy, like at the KIPP Foundation or at Corporate or whatever, or they started getting consulting gigs. When things started going awry, there was a lot of movement in KIPP, a lot of promotions.

I:  So Randall became an organizer of other orchestras at other KIPP schools around the country, right?

A: Yeah.

I: So he got to travel around the country, and girls all over were exposed to his behavior? 

A: Yep. But I don’t know what he actually did, I can’t speak to that, but I know that he shouldn't of been exposed to a larger pool of students.

I: Right. It was sort of like he was rewarded in some way like these other teachers at the school who possibly knew what had occurred?

A: Right.

I: Okay.  When you think about KIPP, what do you think about?

A: Um, I think of two things. One, I honestly think that KIPP saved my life. I have a deep appreciation for KIPP for setting me on a trajectory that I needed. I honestly feel that way. Um, on the other hand, KIPP was a very traumatizing experience.

I: On the sexual abuse angle, of course, but were there otherwise that it was traumatizing?

A: Those white teachers just were not nice. Not all of them, but I just did not have a good experience with the white teachers at KIPP.

I: And they were mostly white?

A: Yeah.

I: Did you have any black teachers?

A: Ms. Bernard.  Ms. Bernard was like an angel. We loved Ms. Bernard.

I: What did she teach?

A: Language arts. she was awesome. 

I: But the rest of the more white, young, essentially inexperienced?

A: Yeah.

I: And, uh, not nice?

A: No.

I: Are there other ways that it was traumatizing?

A: It was mostly just Randall, and Levin’s complacency in allowing Randall to do whatever he wanted. That’s what it was for me. So not was I not protected at home, but I spent all this time at KIPP, too, it was a fucked up situation there, too.

I: After high school, did you go to college? 

A: I did.  I went to college in ________.  

I: A a lot of people do that. Did you feel like your dropping out was related to your experiences, your trauma, at KIPP?

A: I think emotionally I was just spent. I went to KIPP and had a lot of school, and I went to _______ and had a lot of school. I needed a fucking break. I was tired. That’s the best way that I could put it, I was tired and had no support, no mentor, I just gave up.

I: What should parents know about KIPP before they enroll their kids there—that KIPP doesn’t tell them?

A: Well, remember that no one knew anything about KIPP. KIPP was brand new. We we were among the first students of KIPP. Have you ever heard of the KIPP Commitment to Excellence form?

I: Yes, it’s sometimes referred to as a contract, right?

A: Yes, a contract. And it said every day we’re going to be on time, and be there from 7:15 until 5. And we commit to Saturdays. And we commit to summers. We commit to behaving. We commit to trusting KIPP teachers to kind of discipline us. It was interesting.

I: So all those things parents know ahead of time right?

A: Yeah. But parents don't know that Levin and especially Mr. Waxman would yell at us to the point that they were red and purple, and throw shit at us, scream at us, and belittle us, and tell us we’re going to grow up and be nothing—especially if we didn't go to college. That was part of the playbook, but not in the contract—the part that was absurd, the weird shit that was going on. And we were really abused. I don't think people really understand what it's like to have a teacher in your face like a jail warden yelling at you and cussing at you and throwing desks across the room. Like they had some real anger issues. If someone did that, to my child, they were going to jail. 

I would never, ever—but our parents allowed it. Some parents would come to the school. I think Levin got punched in the face, I think Bernard got punched in the face.  It happened a couple of times, apparently would say ‘not my kid, don’t even think about it.’

But a lot of us, especially they Hispanic children, for those of us who didn't live with our parents, who lived with grandparents or whatever, nobody was going to come to school and say shit because they were just happy that we were at KIPP most of the time.

I: I have heard similar stories from others. Do you remember what the offense that would cause such anger among KIPP teachers?

A: We were probably like talking.

I: Any offense was a large offense, right?

A: Any offense was a large offense—anytime you did not listen, fall in line, like you cannot beat children. But that’s why I have discipline now.  I don’t know if it makes me a better parent or worse parent, because my kids are always, like, what the fuck, we can never make you happy. And I’m like ‘why can't you just do this correctly?’ And I really have to check myself. It’s like, no that’s not cool—I remember being their age and being treated like that, and that wasn’t good. But I also have an immense amount of self-control, um, I don’t know—I struggle with it when it comes to parenting.

 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 sex abuser, Jesus Concepcion? If you would like to share your story, please contact me via email: ontogenyx@gmail.com



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