1

Secretary Arne Duncan
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington DC 20202

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100

Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20530

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Educational Opportunities Section, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

President Charles Roemer
Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
1201 North Third Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Superintendent John White
Louisiana Department of Education
1201 North Third Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802-5243

Superintendent Patrick Dobard
Recovery School District
1615 Poydras, Suite 1400
New Orleans, LA 70112

Re: Administrative complaint requesting investigations into three New Orleans charter
schools operated by Collegiate Academies – George Washington Carver Preparatory
Academy, George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy and Sci Academy





2



Dear Federal, State and Local Authorities:

I. Introduction

Students and parents of George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy,
George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy and Sci Academy bring this complaint
to challenge the discipline and learning policies at their schools and demand an
immediate investigation into the allegations contained in this complaint.

Carver Prep, Carver Collegiate and Sci Academy are three charter high schools in
New Orleans, Louisiana under the charter management of Collegiate Academies. Each
of these three schools is based on a harsh and punitive discipline culture, which is
generally the same at each of these schools. These policies and practices endanger the
safety and welfare of students, violates students’ rights under state and federal laws, push
students out of school for minor infractions and ultimately deprive students of a right to
education guaranteed by the Louisiana constitution.
1


II. Background

Before Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Public School system was based on a
traditional neighborhood school model in which most students were assigned to
neighborhood schools based on their residence. School attendance boundaries were set
by geography and students who wished to attend schools other than those in their
neighborhoods could apply to more than 20 citywide enrollment schools (CWAS or
magnet schools) if they met admission criteria. Although many students were assigned to
schools outside of their neighborhoods for a variety of reasons, the Orleans Parish school
administration had ultimate authority over those assignments.

The landscape of public schools in New Orleans dramatically shifted since
Hurricane Katrina and neighborhood-based school attendance boundaries have been
wiped away. After the storm, the Louisiana Department of Education, through the
Recovery School District, took over a majority of Orleans Parish School Board schools
that were considered “failing,” with the plan of converting them to charter schools run by
a loosely organized confederation of charter schools. Currently New Orleans has more
charter schools than any other city in the country with over 79% of its public school
students attending charter schools.
2


1
LSA-Const. Art. 8, § 1 (stating “The legislature shall provide for the education of the people of the state
and shall establish and maintain a public educational system,”) and Preamble, (stating “The goal of the
public educational system is to provide learning environments and experiences, at all stages of human
development, that are humane, just, and designed to promote excellence in order that every individual may
be afforded an equal opportunity to develop to his full potential.” (emphasis added))
2
Lindsey Layton, New Orleans leads nation in percentage of public charter school enrollment, THE
WASHINGTON POST, Dec. 10, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-orleans-leads-
nation-in-percentage-of-public-charter-school-enrollment/2013/12/10/cb9c4ca6-61d6-11e3-bf45-
61f69f54fc5f_story.html.
3


Sci Academy opened in 2008 in New Orleans with only a ninth grade class.
3
In
2011, Collegiate Academies incorporated as a nonprofit corporation and in 2012 opened
George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy (“Carver Prep”) and George
Washington Collegiate Academy (“Carver Collegiate”). Carver Prep and Carver
Collegiate also started with only the ninth grades but added the tenth grades in 2013.
Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate are named after George Washington Carver Senior
High School, which is located in the upper ninth ward and currently in the process of
being phased out, with Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate taking over each grade as it is
phased out of Carver Senior High.
4


Many Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate students are still closely connected to
Carver Senior High. Students from both schools travel every evening to football practice
at Carver Senior High the home of a historic football team. Many students who enrolled
at Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate did so because family members attended Carver or
they dreamed of attending Carver Senior High and playing on its football team. Some
remain in a school they are unhappy with because of that very reason.
5


Collegiate Academies’ schools serve between 98% and 100% minority students.
The majority of its students are African American. 91% of its combined students are
eligible to receive free and reduced meals.
6
Many of the students who attend Collegiate
Academies’ schools live below poverty and in high crime neighborhoods.

Students and parents of Carver Prep, Carver Collegiate and Sci Academy bring
this complaint and ask for an immediate investigation into the following listed
allegations.
7


III. Allegations of abuse and violations of the law

1. Out of control suspension practices for trivial matters and policies

From 2012-2013, the three Collegiate Academies schools had the highest out-of-
school suspension rates in the city of New Orleans with Carver Prep suspending out-of-

3
COLLEGIATE ACADEMIES, 2013 ANNUAL REPORT, available at
http://www.collegiateacademies.org/index.php/news_publications/annual_report/
4
Sarah Tan, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visits New Orleans school, talks of progress,
NOLA.COM/THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, Dec. 4, 2012,
http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/12/secretary_of_education_arne_du_2.html. Carver Senior
High School was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and replaced with trailers after it was taken over by the
state Recovery School District. It currently has only the 11
th
and 12
th
grades.
5
Statement of Student P.
6
COLLEGIATE ACADEMIES, 2013 ANNUAL REPORT, available at
http://www.collegiateacademies.org/index.php/news_publications/annual_report/
7
In order to protect the students who contributed to this letter from further retaliation, a randomly selected
letter in this public document identifies student statements that are on file with counsel and parent
statements are indicated by using their initials.
4

school 61.36% of its students in one year, Carver Collegiate at 68.85% and Sci Academy
at 38.9%.
8


These rates far surpass the Louisiana 9.2% average. Students at these schools
have reported that they are sent home from school for the day due to very minor
infractions such as speaking disrespectfully to a teacher.
9
These suspensions matter
because the student misses an entire day of school, which according to Carver Prep is like
missing an entire week due to the fast-paced program at the school.
10


These suspensions also matter because as studies have shown, suspensions are
one of the leading indicators of whether a child will drop out of school and suspensions
increase a child’s risk for future incarceration.
11


The over-use of out-of-school suspensions causes students to feel discouraged
about returning to school and feel that no matter what they do they are constantly being
criticized and never right.
12


Zero tolerance policies like the “no excuses” model employed by Collegiate
Academies do not target violent or majorly disruptive behaviors but more often than not
push students out of school for very minor infractions.
13


How come so many suspensions? While most people would expect that
suspension from school only happens when there is serious misbehavior or fighting or
semi-criminal actions, that is not the case at these schools. Rather suspensions at these
schools can be triggered by violations of trivial and picky rules invented by these schools.
These schools feature a culture of hyper-discipline that is punitive and demeaning to
students. The schools demand a uniformity among the students and enforce it with harsh
discipline for petty matters such as: (1) requiring all students to firmly shake the hands of
their teachers and administrators at the beginning of each day and before each class;
14
(2)
walking straight on a line;
15
(3) being required to be silent “at level zero” in the hallways,

8
Data collected from the Louisiana Department of Education’s District Composite Reports, New Orleans
Recovery School District school data available at
http://www.laeducationresults.net/School/Select_School.aspx?RecordID=000.
9
See Early Release Forms.
10
George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy Scholar and Family Handbook 2013-2014, p. 9,
available at http://www.carverprep.org/index.php/get_involved/family_resources/ and Student K’s
worksheet. See also Student C statement.
11
JUVENILE JUSTICE PROJECT OF LOUISIANA, WHY SUSPENSIONS MATTER: 2011-2012 YEAR IN REVIEW,
(Sep. 2013) available at http://jjpl.org/suspensions-matter/. See also THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, TEST,
PUNISH AND PUSH OUT: HOW “ZERO-TOLERANCE” AND HIGH-STAKES TESTING FUNNEL YOUTH INTO THE
SCHOOL-TO-PRISON-PIPELINE, 6 (Mar. 2010), available at
http://www.advancementproject.org/resources/entry/test-punish-and-push-out-how-zero-tolerance-and-
high-stakes-testing-funnel.
12
See Demand Letter from Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep students.
13
Id. at 4.
14
Statements of Students H, G, and C. See also George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy Scholar
and Family Handbook 2013-2014, p. 20, available at
http://www.carverprep.org/index.php/get_involved/family_resources/.
15
Statements of Students C and G.
5

often at lunchtime or whenever a teacher demands;
16
(4) being required to sit in an
upright position all day, hands folded on the desk, feet planted firmly on the floor, and
looking straight ahead;
17
(5) being required to raise their hand in lock-elbow position in
class or receive demerits if their arm is not straight, (6) being suspended for minor
misbehaviors like laughing too much, inappropriate displays of affection such as hugging
a friend, and most commonly for being “disrespectful.”
18
While each of these rules
individually are not harsh, in combination and backed up with suspensions and threats of
suspensions, they create an oppressive atmosphere which advances almost military –like
uniformity and can turn the school atmosphere into one which prizes strict authoritarian
discipline at the expense of learning.

Nationally, the American Psychological Association (APA) as well as other
groups has found that African American students and minority students of color are
disproportionately punished by harsh discipline policies in schools.
19
Lack of teacher
training, racial stereotyping, and a lack of cultural sensitivity are at the root of this
disparate treatment and not that these students exhibit higher rates of violence or
disruption warranting punishment.
20


Student and parent reports reflect this national trend at Carver Prep, Carver
Collegiate and Sci Academy, where the majority of teachers are not from New Orleans,
are not African American, and have little if any prior teaching experience or training in
cultural sensitivity. The result is the highest suspension rate in the area.

2. Isolating students as discipline

Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate deprive students of their right to an education
when they suspend students in-school by “sidelining” them or “benching” them and
keeping them in a room by themselves for the entire day or in another teacher’s
classroom without giving them any work from their classes to do for the day, so that they
miss out on their class work because of minor rule violations such as being out of
uniform by wearing the wrong type of belt or having jewelry on.
21



16
Statement of Student A.
17
George Washington Carver Preparatory Academy Scholar and Family Handbook 2013-2014, p. 17,
available at http://www.carverprep.org/index.php/get_involved/family_resources/. See also George
Washington Carver Collegiate Academy Family Handbook 2013-2014, p. 15, available at
http://www.carvercollegiate.org/index.php/get_involved/family_resources/.
18
Statement of Student E.
19
AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION ZERO TOLERANCE TASK FORCE, ARE ZERO TOLERANCE
POLICIES EFFECTIVE IN THE SCHOOLS?, AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST 854 (Dec. 2008), available at
http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/zero-tolerance.aspx. See also THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, TEST,
PUNISH AND PUSH OUT, at 10; COUNCIL ON STATE GOVERNMENTS JUSTICE CENTER, BREAKING SCHOOL
RULES, 12 (Jul. 2011), available at http://www.ojjdp.gov/enews/11juvjust/110721.html.
20
AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION ZERO TOLERANCE TASK FORCE, ARE ZERO TOLERANCE
POLICIES EFFECTIVE IN THE SCHOOLS?, at 854.
21
There are many statements referring to this practice, which seems to be different for each child.
Sidelining doesn’t seem to happen the same way for each student but in all cases the students feel that they
are missing out on their classes due to simple rule violations like having the wrong type of belt.
6

3. Sending students home without notifying parents

Students report that they are sent home without the school notifying their
parents.
22
The student is given either bus tokens or quarters for the fare and told to go
home. Students often spend the day at Joe Brown Park or the library waiting for the end
of the school day.
23


Sending minor children home from school without receiving parental permission
to do so violates the school’s own policies and therefore the school’s charter agreement
with the state.
24
It is also a violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 17:226 and the
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights of parents not to be informed about the reason
why their child has been suspended.
25


4. Detaining students until they have to go home after dark

Parents and guardians have reported that their child is given after school detention
even though the parent has expressed to the school that they are not comfortable with
their child taking public transportation home in the dark.
26
Students report being fearful
when they are detained at school until 5:30pm. Then they have to wait for the public bus
that comes at 6:20pm and then arrive home a couple of hours later.
27
Two students report
that they were physically injured when attacked by other kids when they were forced to
take public transportation home after school in the evening.
28
Placing students at risk of
harm by sending them home on the bus in the dark is a violation of children’s safety and
welfare.

5. Expelling students from the school bus without parental notification

Students have reported being expelled from riding the school bus and their parent
was never informed.
29
Expelling students off of the school bus without notifying the
student’s parent is a violation of the student and parent’s due process rights and state law.
Louisiana Revised Statute 17:416 requires that parents be notified of any alleged
discipline violation on a school bus and corresponding action by the
school.
30
Additionally, by depriving students of school bus transportation to and from
home, students can be exposed to potential dangers when they are forced to take public
transportation after dark.

22
Statement of Student G.
23
See Demand Letter from Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep students.
24
See George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy Family Handbook 2013-2014, p. 36, available at
http://www.carvercollegiate.org/index.php/get_involved/family_resources/ (Suspension flowchart). See
also Sci Academy Family Handbook 2013-2014, p. 27, available at
http://www.sciacademy.org/index.php/get_involved/family_resources/.
25
La. Rev. Stat. Ann. 17: 226 and Louisiana Administrative Code 28: 1302 (both the code and statute
require that parents are informed in writing of the reasons for the suspension.)
26
Parent S.B’s Statement.
27
Statements of Student L and Student D.
28
Student P’s statement and Statement of Student Q.
29
Student P’s statement and Parent S.B.
30
La Rev. Stat. Ann. 17:416(A)(4)(a)(i)(ll).
7


6. Failure to report injuries to parents

Carver Prep fails to report students’ injuries to the child’s parents and does not
report them to a nurse when requested and needed.
31



7. Bullying and harassment of children with special needs

Students with Individualized Education Plans have reported being placed at the
back of the classroom repeatedly and denied participation in the class due to their
“misbehavior.”
32
Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate both have policies prohibiting
bullying in compliance with the federal government’s Stop Bullying initiative.
33


One student reported a teacher calling him stupid in front of other students and
then permitting students to throw paper at him and call him names because this particular
student, Student O, had commented that he thought it was stupid that the school did not
have any textbooks with which he could try to understand a math problem that he was
struggling with. This student is autistic.
34
The bullying he experienced and school’s
insistence that he walk straight on the line when transitioning despite his inability to do
so because of his cerebral palsy caused him to become so depressed that he did not want
to go back to school. His mother withdrew him shortly thereafter upon being advised to
do so by the student’s psychiatrist.
35


Student L reported that he is made to sit in the back of the class every day and
face the wall.
36
He also has an Individualized Education Plan.

By condoning bullying of students with disabilities and creating environments
where such harassment is routine, Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep are violating both
Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004. The Office of
Civil Rights in 2000 issued a letter reminding schools of their obligations to prevent
harassment of students with disabilities and not to discriminate against these students
under Section 504 and Title II regulations.
37


31
Statement of Parent B. Statement of Student K.
32
Statement of Student L.
33
Carver Prep Handbook, p. 39. Carver Collegiate Handbook, p. 40.
34
Letter from Psychiatrist.
35
Statement of Parent J.
36
Statement of Student L.
37
OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS, PROHIBITED DISABILITY HARASSMENT: REMINDER OF RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER
SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973 AND TITLE II OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
ACT (Jul. 25, 2000), available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/disabharassltr.html#note3.
The OCR defined disability harassment as
intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile
environment by interfering with or denying a student's participation in or receipt of benefits,
services, or opportunities in the institution's program. Harassing conduct may take many forms,
including verbal acts and name-calling, as well as nonverbal behavior, such as graphic and written
statements, or conduct that is physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating.
8


8. Lack of legally required notice to parents of children with disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires that
parents and legal guardians of children with disabilities receive notice of any meetings
with respect to “(i) The identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child;
and (ii) The provision of FAPE to the child.”
38


Carver Collegiate did not inform Student O’s mother of the Individualized
Education Plan meeting the school held to update the student’s IEP. The school lied
about contacting the student’s mother and stated in the IEP that the student’s “family was
called by his advisor to set up an IEP meeting. They were unable to attend.”
39
His mother
said she was never informed and knew nothing about this meeting.
40
Notification of the
next IEP meeting was mailed to the wrong address and she only found out about the
meeting because the mailman knew her personally and phoned her up to ask her about
her correct address.
41
She never received any telephone call from the school notifying
her about the IEP meetings. By failing to notify Student O’s parent about these IEP
meetings, Carver Collegiate violated the notice provisions under IDEA and deprived this
student’s guardian and advocate of her role on the IEP team and her right to inform the
team about services her child needed at the school.

One student with disabilities even claims Carver Collegiate falsified his transcript
by stating that he had taken courses that he had not taken.
42


9. Illegal suspensions of special needs students for more than 10 days

Students with disabilities at Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate report that they
have been suspended more than ten times.
43
Suspending students with disabilities out-of-
school for more than ten days triggers a change of placement under IDEA and requires an
immediate IEP meeting to determine whether placement in an alternative educational
setting is warranted.

A Manifestation Determination must occur within 10 school days of any decision
to change the placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of
student conduct and at this meeting the IEP team must determine whether the student’s
conduct in question was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the
child’s disability, or whether the conduct in question was the direct result of the local
education agency’s (LEA’s) failure to implement the student’s IEP.
44



38
Section 300.501(b)(1)-(2); 20 U.S.C. 1414(e) & 1415(b)(1).
39
Student O’s IEP updated on 11/30/2012, p. 1.
40
Parent J’s Statement.
41
Parent J’s Statement and mailing label showing wrong address.
42
Parent J’s Statement.
43
Statement of Parents S, S.B., and Student P.
44
20 U.S.C. § 1415(k)(E).
9

Student L and Student P never received a Manifestation Determination to
determine whether the source of their repeated out-of-school suspensions were a
manifestation of their disability or whether the school was failing to correctly implement
their IEPs. Therefore, Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep violated and continue to violate
these students’ rights under IDEA by suspending them out-of-school routinely for more
than ten days without investigating the reason behind these students’ recurring
suspensions.

10. Failure to provide parents copies of student handbook

Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep have violated state law and student’s due
process rights by not giving parents and guardians a copy of the student handbook before
school begins so that they have notice of what the rules and procedures are and how they
can appeal their child’s suspension.
45


11. Punitive bathroom policies

Students report that bathroom doors are locked and they must request permission
to go to the bathroom, which is often not given. Students have also reported that the door
handles were removed from the bathrooms for a period of time.
46
This has proven
particularly difficult for students who are pregnant or have medical conditions that
occasion frequent trips to the bathroom.
47
Additionally, male teachers have walked in on
female students in the bathroom and vice versa, causing the students to feel that they do
not have any privacy when using the bathroom.
48


12. Punishment through withholding meals

Sci Academy does not provide lunch as a form of punishment against students
who have chosen not to serve lunch detention.
49
The food students do receive is often
spoiled.
50
Students complain of constantly feeling hungry because they feel they are not
receiving enough food to eat at school and have been told that they may not bring food
from home.
51


13. Refusal to listen to parental concerns

These schools repeatedly refuse to listen to and acknowledge parental concerns
about the school’s discipline policies.
52
There is little commitment to Parent Teacher
committees or other consistent ways for parents to provide input, to receive information
from the school, or to answer questions. When students and parents attempted to address

45
Statements of Parents J and S.
46
Parent R’s statement.
47
Teacher statement. Statements of Students E and G.
48
Parent J’s statement.
49
Statement of Student F.
50
Statement of Student H.
51
Statements of Students O, N, H, C. Statement of Parent R, B, Rr, BO.
52
Statements of Parents J, R, B, Rr, and S.B.
10

the Collegiate Board in December of 2013, the Board members walked out of the
meeting during the public comment period rather than hear their complaints.

14. Lack of alternative schooling options

Readers of this list of complaints may ask why parents and students do not just
transfer to another school. Transfers to another school during the academic school year is
a very challenging process in New Orleans where permission must be granted from the
school the student is leaving from and the school where the student hopes to go and the
central administration which oversee the system. Thus the students at these schools,
many of whom were recruited to attend the school, are not really empowered to be able to
change schools.
53

When faced with the impossibility of transferring this way, parents have instead
withdrawn their children from these three schools and found ways to home school them
in order to stop the continued violation of their children’s rights and endangerment of
their welfare and safety.
54


15. Intimidation of students exercising First Amendment rights

The Collegiate Academies schools all violate students’ freedom of speech rights
by retaliating against them for protesting and suspending students for engaging in out-of-
school protests.
55
One student was suspended for “instigating a protest” and prevented
from meeting with school staff to discuss the students’ list of demands because she was
suspended.
56
This kind of retaliation against students exercising their right to assembly
creates a culture of fear and intimidation at these schools causing many students to fear
retaliation for challenging rules and policies they believe to be unfair. Many students
have refused to contact advocates for help because they were afraid the school would
retaliate and expel them for speaking out.

III. Conclusion

Education is essential. The opportunity to get a good high school education is
critical to the success of the students in our community. We, as students and parents of
students, ask that the national, state and local authorities launch an investigation into the
complaints outlined in this letter so the students at these schools can continue their
education and take their places as leaders and contributors to our community. Allowing
these practices to continue is unacceptable.




53
Parent J’s statement. See also the Recovery School District’s Mid-Year Transfer Policy, p. 5 available at
http://lrsd.entest.org/13-
14%20Final%20Policy%20Admissions%20Readmissions%20and%20Transfers%20Including%20Appendi
ces.pdf.
54
Statements of Parents S, J, Rr, and B.
55
Statements of Students F, P, O and Parent R.
56
Suspension document of Student Q.
11


Signed,


s/ Rev. Willie Calhoun
Better Education Support Team (B.E.S.T.)
Students and Parents at Collegiate Academies Schools New Orleans, Louisiana


s/ Anna Lellelid, Esq.
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
7214 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans LA 70118
c: 504.224.9670
Annalise.lellelid@gmail.com


William P. Quigley, Esq.
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
7214 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans LA 70118
quigley77@gmail.com

Statements are on file with undersigned attorneys.

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