Bay Area School District’s Threats to Shut Down a Charter School Fall Flat (For Now)
The vote to revoke a West Contra Costa County high school’s charter has been postponed following intense backlash from parents and students. Instead, the school district and Amethod Public Schools, which operates three charter schools in Richmond and three in Oakland, will work to develop an agreement on protocol for suspected child abuse cases.
West Contra Costa Unified has been threatening to shut down John Henry High School ever since it found out the school does not always immediately report suspected child abuse cases. During a training session last year, an administrator recounted a child coming forward to report abuse at home in 2012. The administrator said they investigated the claim before reporting it and that it turned out to be unfounded. Former teachers have since signed affidavits claiming that they were told to investigate such allegations themselves before reporting them to authorities as well.
This is only the second time the board has considered revoking a charter and the first time it has done so citing a “severe and imminent threat to student safety.” In fact, no charters in the state have ever been revoked on those grounds.
Attorney Lisa Corr, of Young, Minney and Corr has said John Henry High School is in compliance with the law and that the administrator’s 2017 remarks don’t reflect current training practices. There have never been any child abuse reports inside the school.
Some have accused the district of using the issue to go after a popular charter school that it would rather not exist. The rapid expansion of charter schools in West Contra Costa County has been a controversial political issue and school district officials wasted no time pursuing revocation after first receiving the teacher affidavits.
Under state law, charters can be revoked for a number of reasons, including violation of charter rules, failure to meet academic goals, fiscal mismanagement, or violating the law. But even in cases in which the health or safety of pupils is threatened, academic achievement shall be “the most important factor in determining whether to revoke a charter.” Board Member Madeline Kronenbergs says she wants to see the state review that provision. In the meantime, John Henry’s stellar academic performance makes revocation an even steeper uphill battle. A new agreement over child abuse allegation reporting appears to be the most reasonable — and likely — result for now.
Read more at EdSource.