Charter School Director Avoids Jail Time

An Oakland charter school operator accused of verbally abusing students and misappropriating millions of dollars in funds will get off with just one year probation and a $100 fine.

Ben Chavis, former head of the American Indian Model Schools, was sentenced last month after pleading guilty to one count of submitting false information on federal documents. He was originally charged with six felony mail fraud and money laundering charges which could have landed him in prison for decades. Those charges were later dropped as part of a plea deal.

Chavis resigned from his post in 2012, one year after a state audit revealed that he and his wife had siphoned off $3.8 million in school funds to businesses they owned. The IRS and FBI investigated him for six years.

Chavis’ tenure at the school was marked by harsh discipline tactics, including verbal insults, racist remarks, and expletives against students. He and his supporters insist those tactics worked. Testing scores at Indian Model Schools were through the roof while he was there.

Chavis remains unapologetic, noting many of his former students are now scientists and engineers.

As for his sentencing, he says the system worked as its supposed to.

“The neat thing about America,” Chavis told SF Gate, is that “everybody eventually gets their chance in court.”