Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Right to Education Project recently filed a complaint on behalf of a middle school student and their parent against The Experiential School of Greensboro (TESG), a Guilford County charter school. The complaint targets the school’s alleged violations of its charter agreement, policies and/or procedures and provision of state law.
Crystal S. Ingram, staff attorney with REP, assisted Isaiah* and parent K.O.* with filing the complaint with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools (OCS).
“TESG tells students, families, and other stakeholders, “expulsions and suspensions do more harm than good for students and society,” and declared in its charter school application that “it would not, except under extreme circumstances, expel or suspend students,” said Ingram. “Yet, in this case, TESG strayed heavily from those principles with an obvious disregard for the educational and emotional impact it would have on this student and his family. As such, there must be accountability for divergence from its founding principles and its advertised practices. Students at TESG deserve to be given the education their parents were promised they would receive.”
During the Fall of 2022, Isaiah
* edited a popular image they found online by placing their teacher’s face over the image and was placed on a five-day short-term suspension for allegedly violating the school’s acceptable internet use policy. Later in the year, Isaiah was suspended short-term once again, this time for a three-day term, for allegedly violating the school’s aggressive behavior policy.
The short-term suspensions are being challenged on the claim that the alleged incidents do not meet the Code of Student Conduct requirements to impose these suspensions and these suspensions were in violation of state law. Notably, the first five-day suspension was not authorized under the Student Code of Conduct, nor was an adequate informal hearing given to allow the client a chance to defend against the allegations.
During the suspensions, TESG allegedly failed to provide information to the clients about missed assignments and updated grades.
“Despite a mental health state of emergency in North Carolina, schools like The Experiential School of Greensboro (TESG) continue to ignore research and circumvent their own written policies,” Isaiah’s mother said, “This is causing our children and our community immense harm. TESG asked the state of NC for funding in 2016 in exchange for providing an education that would remain committed to creating “an inclusive, open, experience-based learning environment that promotes the development of socially-aware citizens who are creative problem solvers and critical thinkers.” Their divergence from this commitment with my son’s education is not only astounding; unfortunately, it supports the relentless practice of funneling children like my son down the school-to-prison pipeline with an unjust swiftness and with zero mercy. “
Proposed resolutions to the violations include expunging the suspensions from Isaiah’s education and discipline records, as well as recoding the suspensions as mental health days. In addition, the resolutions would require training for the school’s board members, administrators, faculty and staff on Peaceful Schools and Restorative Justice practices and conflict resolution. There is also a proposal which would require TESG to revise their Handbook and Student Code of Conduct to show their divergence from Peaceful School protocols, report on all suspensions quarterly to OCS, and remedy other violations in the complaint as is suggested by an OCS investigation.
Although the complaint filed was not investigated due to capacity issues and internal regulations, the Office of Charter Schools still allows parents to submit concerns about a charter school which can be added to the school’s file by emailing the concerns to StakeholderSupport@dpi.nc.gov and including the name of the school in the title of the email containing the parent’s concerns. More information can be found by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/nccharterschoolconcerns.
* Name changed for client confidentiality