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Charter School Group Accused Of Violating Students' Civil Rights

Eric E Castro
A civil rights complaint filed Tuesday against New Orleans charter school managers Collegiate Academies alleges harsh discipline that violates federal laws.

This story has been updated.

A group of lawyers, students and parents have filed a civil rights complaint against three local charter schools. They're asking state and federal officials to investigate the discipline policies at Carver Preparatory, Carver Collegiate Academy and Sci Academy, all operated by Collegiate Academies. These schools have the highest suspension rates in the city.

Civil rights attorney Anna Lellelid helped file the complaint. She says the schools suspend students for minor infractions, like wearing the wrong type of belt. Schools send kids home in the middle of the day, without notifying their parents, so the students often wind up at a park or public library.

“We can go there at any point of the day and we will find maybe ten, fifteen kids who are just sitting upstairs on the computers,” Lellelid says. “And you ask them why they're there, why they're not in school, and they'll tell you that it's because they were just suspended.”

Katie Jones says her grandson got in-school suspension for not walking down the hall in a straight line, even though he has cerebral palsy. She pulled him out of Carver.

"Now because of this he's on anxiety pills," Jones says. "He's taking Prozac."

Elisheba Thomas says the biggest problem at her school is the bathroom policy. Students can only go at designated times. Thomas wound up with a urinary tract infection.

"I don't feel comfortable going to a school that won't allow me to use the bathroom when I really have to," she says.

Anna Lellelid says she hopes the investigations lead the schools to change their discipline policies.

"But if they fail to do that, then these parents and students are saying shut them down," she says.

Support for education reporting on WWNO comes from Baptist Community Ministries, Entergy, The Hechinger Report, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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