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

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Students Remember KIPP: The "Abusive Caregiver," Part 4

This post contains the final part of my interview with Kayla, who shared her story as a middle school student who was sexually abused by a KIPP teacher, Charlie Randall (Randall died earlier this year).  

Kayla offers a compelling case that other teachers, including co-founder, David Levin, were aware that orchestra teacher, Charlie Randall, was consistently and repeatedly inappropriate with female students and that Randall was sometimes drunk on the job.  

Kayla was a KIPP student during the early days the Bronx KIPP Academy in New York.  Find previous parts of the interview here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I: So what do you hope to accomplish by sharing your story?
A: I think all of our stories are a very important part of the KIPP story, not as a way to splatter negativity against KIPP because, again, I love KIPP, and I'm appreciative of KIPP.  I just get extremely triggered when I hear about KIPP or when I see KIPP—it’s a thing, it's really a thing in my life.  And on a very high-level, I don't think Mr. Levin deserves to have a seat at the table at KIPP.  The thing about his co-CEO, Feinberg, who got fired and no longer has a seat at the table, right?
[Allegations of sexual misconduct by Mike Feinberg, with both middle school students and teachers, led to Feinberg’s firing.  A New York Times story on the matter here:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/kipp-sexual-misconduct-michael-feinberg.html?searchResultPosition=1]
I feel like, just because you didn't touch children, it doesn't mean that you didn't do something equally damaging, and I feel like he has been able to skate under the radar and not be held accountable. And there are literally dozens of people who are grown now, but children then, who are out there who were not protected by him, and he pretends he doesn't know a thing.
It would be one thing if he said out loud to the lawyers or whomever, ‘I fucked up, I fucked up’.  If he told us that he was 25 years old, and it was the 90s, you know, really a sign of the times, but ‘I am sorry’ [Kayla’s emphasis]. But he has never been able to do that. And I think that ‘I’m sorry’ is a very powerful thing because that's what leads to forgiveness, right?
I mean, he didn't touch me and I know that he was 25 and I understand it was the 90s and I remember the 90s—a lot of things went on in the 90s that wouldn't go on now, but to see someone that I hold out as a father and that I have respect for, to never accept accountability, escape accountability, and throw someone under the bus and literally take away his whole livelihood, which was Martinez [former KIPP gym teacher], it sucks. It just sucks. And I think there’s a lot of power And I think him saying sorry and I fucked up—I should've protected you guys and didn’t—would go a long way. But to see him continue to have a seat at the table—I don't think he deserves it. I really don’t.
And I just wondered if this ever keeps him up at night. He knows—he knows that Randall used to drink—he knows that Randall would show up drunk at school, and Randall would get fresh with us. Like why would you allow a drunk man to be around us that got fresh with us—like he knew that was inappropriate. And I think a lot of us just suffer as adults.  And there’s just no place to—like I can talk about in therapy until I’m blue in the face, I can get on my knees and pray to God about it I'm blue in the face, but nothing is ever going to make it better, unless he says ‘I am sorry—I fucked up.’
I: You would like to see some accountability?
A: Yes.
I: A quick sidebar here: Mr. Martinez was blamed, or he became the fall guy, when this began to surface, right? And he was fired?
A: Yeah.
I: Okay. And did the story go away at that point?
A: Yeah, the stories went away, all of a sudden, the articles disappeared in the newspapers—you can’t pull them up anymore. And all of a sudden, Sara Martinez went away. You just never heard from her again. She's not on social media, her number changed.  
A: So what grade were you in when Mr. Martinez was fired?
A: I was grown, I was an adult.
I: Would you estimate what year it was?
A: 2018, 2019, somewhere in there. Let me check the letter.  Here we go: 6-18-2020. Dave wrote a letter to the community-at-large.
[The letter referred to here is from David Levin to KIPP alumni, dated June 18, 2020.  The letter may be accessed here: https://www.kipp.org/news/a-letter-from-dave-levin-to-kipp-alumni/]
I: So you would like to achieve some kind of accountability here and to hear David Levin say that he is sorry, which is totally understandable and realistic desire, wish, hope.  Can you talk about how KIPP has affected your life?
A: I think that KIPP has impacted my my ability to connect with men in a way that is unhealthy. And I have been working very hard to unpack that. Like I have to get away from dating older men because that is what I'm used to, and that is what I was groomed to do, right? I have to get away from chasing men with money who will take care of me because, again, that’s what I was groomed to do, that is what I was used to.
Like a lot of the unhealthy behaviors and the way that I viewed myself sexually—I had to get away from that. I had to learn to love myself outside of that.
I:  Yes.  [long pause] Are there other ways?
A: That's the biggest one worth talking about.  Our friendships were unhealthy at KIPP, especially in my class.
I: Can you say more about that?
A: A lot of colorism at KIPP, and you will see in that letter that Levin addresses that. But there was a lot of colorism and a lot of racism that KIPP.
I: Do you think there were other administrators besides Levin who knew [about Randall’s behavior with KIPP students]?
A: Yeah, definitely. Because Randall would literally sit in a chair in the hallway and make disgusting comments about us. And you had Corcoran and Myers right across the hall. You had Breen right across the hall. And he would make these comments in front of everyone. So when everything hit the fan, it was crazy for all of these teachers to say we didn't know. And it was like, well, he made comments to you guys. He made the comments out loud. These guys would just shake their heads when he made these comments, so what do you mean you didn't know? 
Everyone's denial of it has been weird for us because we were all there. We all heard it.
I: And did Levin know? 
A: Yes. When I say Levin knew, I want to make this clear – when I say everyone knew, they heard the comments he was making, and the comments were disgusting for 11, 12, 13, 14 year old girls. I'm not saying that anyone knew about the actual sexual assaults that were happening, but I think the grooming was clear. I think the sexual innuendo was clear. The fact that we all called him a dirty old man, teachers and students, was because he made these comments out loud all the time in front of everyone.
I: What was a typical comment?
A: He would make comments about our bodies. He would make comments about things that men like sexually. He would make comments about how his money gave him access to women. Stuff like that.
I: Do you remember times when Levin was present when he was making these kinds of comments?
A: All the time. This was something that happened daily. It wasn't like he was trying to hide it because he definitely did not. This wasn't something that happened once a week – we were in school with each other from seven in the morning to five at night, Saturdays and summer. And literally, Saturdays were nothing but orchestra, so we were around each other more than we were our families. Of course Levin was there, of course. Like I said, Levin, hides behind this ‘I was 25 years old when this happened, and you can't use a lens of what is appropriate in 2024 to view what happened then. But the standard is always been you have a duty to report, duty to protect, you're a mandated reporter, that has always been the same. But he will blame a lack of training and the time [that these events occurred].
I: Do you know if he has ever been confronted with this?
A: Yeah, Sara [Martinez, the student] confronted him. Sara definitely confronted him. Martinez [Mr. Martinez, the gym teacher] confronted him when he got fired for not reporting. And Martinez was like, but I told you. And so they said, do you have any emails? Can you prove it? And he couldn’t.
I: So Sara Martinez sort of disappeared after that, I believe you said.
A: Yeah.
I: So you have no idea where she might be now?
A: Nope.
I: So Sara confronted Levin when she left KIPP?
A: It's my understanding she started confronting him about her 10th grade year, when it started to impact her immensely. So let’s see, 10th grade would have been 20__. So from about 20__ to about 2019. She kept nagging a KIPP and nagging at KIPP and nagging at KIPP, and going to the Daily News and do whatever newspaper would listen in New York, and making it a big deal, and blowing it up, until eventually it just went away. 
[The New York Times carried the story of the findings of an investigation in 2017 (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/nyregion/kipp-nyc-charter-schools-debevoise-sex-abuse-report.html). So Sara Martinez was trying to get acknowledgement that she had been sexually assaulted by a KIPP teacher for over a decade].
I: And you haven't seen her appear on social media or anywhere since about 2019?
A: No.
I: Okay. Do you know if Levin or if any other teacher at the school had knowledge of Randall’s intoxication?
A: Yeah, because Levin had to send him home sometimes. Sometimes he would be so intoxicated that he would have to be sent home. But if there was a performance coming up, or if there were donors in the buildings—if there were donors in the building, he couldn’t be there intoxicated.  And the reason I know this is that Randall told me personally. But yeah, everyone knew. Do you know why it wasn’t a secret? He had a bottle of Johnny Walker Black on the counter and the classroom.  He would do shots. After class, he would say, ‘do you want to do a shot—have you ever had liquor before?’
I: Oh, wow. Wow. Did Randall have anything to do with Concepcion getting the job at KIPP? Do you have any knowledge of that?
A: Yes, absolutely. Randall brought Concepcion’s to KIPP.  
I: So when Randall left Concepcion took his position, right?
A: They were both there at the same time. They were both there my ______ grade year.  And it was crazy when Concepcion was there. Because when Concepcion came, it was clear the Randall told him about me. He tried me, and I told him, like, don’t try me. And what was outrageous about Concepcion is that Concepcion would bring his mistress to the orchestra room. Concepcion would talk about sex in front of us, like him having sex with all these other women, the fact that he had a lot of money, he could have sex with all these women—this is what happened during orchestra rehearsal. Clear as day, and no one said a thing because we had a really good orchestra.

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