This month a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a federal lawsuit against the Success Academy Charter School Network can proceed. Parents of five former Success pre-school and kindergarten students at its Fort Greene school in Brooklyn charge that the network discriminates against children with disabilities and retaliates against families, forcing them to remove their children from Success schools. Judge Frederick Block’s written decision exposes how Success’ zero-tolerance disciplinary “Code of Conduct” mistreats young children and punishes families.
According to claims made by the plaintiffs, Success Academy is run more like a prison camp than a school. Children are reprimanded if they fail to remain in a “Magic 5” sitting position while in class, teachers are required to use stopwatches to script the school day and keep students on task at all times, and students must maintain absolute silence when walking from class to class. They are ordered to carry “air bubbles” in their mouths to prevent any sound. Children who repeatedly violate these restrictions are removed from class. Parents receive continuous harassing phone calls from the network’s schools and eventually are ordered to leave work or school to take their children home.
If parents are unable or unwilling to comply, young children are formally suspended from Success schools. The parents making the case allege that Success has also threatened it would call the police or the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) to register formal complaints against the families. In at least one case police were called because a child had a “tantrum” and the child was taken to a psychiatric facility. Success supposedly welcomes parents to sit in on classes to help monitor the behavior of their children, but at least one parent was barred from the school for questioning its disciplinary practices.
The plaintiffs reported that they requested evaluations of their children for potential learning disabilities and appropriate accommodations. In response, they were placed on a “Got to Go” list by the principal of the Success Academy Fort Greene school and pressured to withdraw their children from the school.
In response to these accusations, Success Academy offered a Trump collusion defense. Its legal representatives argue that school and network officials did not know they were violating student rights under laws protecting students with disabilities, that the parents are unable to demonstrate a “causal connection between the adverse actions and the protected conduct,” and that the case should be dismissed on a series of technicalities. Judge Block did recognize some of Success’ legal challenges but ruled that the case could proceed based on the substance of the allegations.
The plaintiff parents are represented by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, and Advocates for Justice. Stroock associate Kayley McGrath described Success Academy’s disciplinary code as “militaristic” and charged that there is a “pattern of mistreatment” of children at Success schools.
Thanks to Mercedes Schneider at deutsch29 for bringing this ruling to my attention. Once again Chalkbeat New York is not adequately reporting on trouble at the Success Academy Charter School Network. It did not cover the court announcement. Its most recent article on Success mentioned a “rocky year” at its Manhattan high school after a Wall Street Journal report on student and staff unrest there, but headlined explanations by Success CEO Eva Moskowitz for high staff turnover.
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