Enforcing Compliance

“Pupils, school personnel, classroom, special programs or other activities, regardless of their funding source, are not subject to visitation observation or any other external attention without the school administrator’s endorsement.”

- Derek Horowitz, Principal, Nobel Charter Middle School

The problems that I had been hearing about Nobel Middle School were confirmed when I wrote The Administrator Who Stole Christmas. Shortly after I published this piece, the head of their charter board complained about the general accuracy of the piece - but despite being asked, he never offered a specific correction; he would only say that most parents were happy with the school. Instead, he seemed more interested in knowing which parent had provided me with the information. I was taken aback when his response to my refusal to name my source was to start listing parents who he thought were responsible. He referred to them as his few “disgruntled parents.” Interestingly, his list did not include the actual person.

Knowing that this behavior was unprofessional, I immediately notified the one person the administrator had named whom I knew. This person was angry but not surprised. It fit the pattern of how dissent was handled within the school. Those who interfered with the ability to achieve consensus were routinely subject to intimidation; this was no exception.

This weekend I was provided with a copy of a letter that brought this bullying to a whole new level. I am trying to confirm the details about the worst part of this letter which included innuendo of “inappropriate” behavior without stating what this behavior was. However, one does not have to read too far between the lines to find the intention of the letter.

Charter schools are publicly funded and, therefore, must be held accountable to the communities that they serve. As a neighborhood school, all children have a right to attend, even if their parents agitate for change.  These parents should not be told to find new schools if they are not happy with the administration. They should certainly not be told that if they “have issues with the way the school is run, you need to address those issues with the administration not with staff or students.” This school is operating in the United States, not the Soviet Union. Free speech rights do not end at the schoolhouse door, even if it is a charter.

My son found himself in a similar position at Granada Hills Charter High School. He was cited for a dress code violation for wearing a hood, outside on a rainy day. When he protested this rule, the first thing that he was told was that the school was a charter and they could kick him out. Actually, as a neighborhood resident, they do not have the ability to remove him from the school for exercising his right to disagree.  However, all students should have this protection. The fact that they do not represents another failure of the LAUSD Board to adequately hold charter schools within the district accountable. Will this situation only get worse with outside interests spending $1,286,902.89 to buy the last LAUSD election?