Long Island, NY) Amid rising concerns around recently exposed harsh school discipline practices at Success Academy Charter Network, a parent backed by Alliance for Quality Education launched a petition calling on Arne Duncan to conduct a civil rights investigation. The petition, which in addition to an investigation demands that no further federal funding be provided to the charter network, garnered over 35,000 signatures nationwide.
Launched on website Color of Change, whose purpose is to “strengthen Black America’s political voice”, the petition was pushed by several prominent civil rights and education advocacy groups nationwide. Success Academy has many times over claimed to provide a successful alternative for Black, Latino and impoverished students, but their harsh disciplinary practices that have shown to push students out.
Success Academy’s CEO Eva Moskowitz has been a big proponent of punitive methods of disciplining students, even those as young as kindergarten and first grade. In one school 44 suspensions were handed out to just 203 kindergarteners and first graders. In another, a principal authorized a “Got to Go” list of students deemed too hard to educate, which they then suspended until parents decided to remove them.
Fatima Geidi’s son was the target of these excessive suspensions and his mistreatment led to her removing him, and launching this petition.
“As a parent sending your child to a school is entrusting them with the responsibility to do what’s in the best interest of your child’s future. Not only did Success Academy repeatedly undermine my son’s educational opportunities, they are making it practice do so to so many other children,” said Fatima Geidi, former Success Academy Parent. “No child deserves to be targeted or pushed out of their own learning environment like my son was and the U.S DOE should not fund any school that does.”
In addressing the local and national concern on criminalizing young children, particularly Black and Latino students, the over 35,000 signatures nationwide overwhelmingly push Arne Duncan to action. Civil rights leaders, advocates, and parents will deliver the petition today to further drive this demand.
“ColorOfChange is proud to support Fatima Geidi and the Alliance for Quality Education New York in their campaign to demand a civil rights investigation into Success Charter Schools’ racially prejudiced suspension policies. Every student deserves access to a high quality education and publicly-supported schools in our communities simply cannot be permitted to selectively exclude Black children by creating ‘Got to Go’ lists and repeatedly suspending 1st graders,” said Rashad Robinson Executive Director, ColorOfChange.org
“The punitive disciplining of students being advocated for by Eva Moskowitz at Success Academies is not only dangerous and abusive, it is a direct entry point into the much-discussed “school-to-prison-pipeline”. No child should be harshly disciplined in the classroom, but the overt racism exposed by the overwhelming disproportionality of children of color receiving such discipline over their white counterparts is especially disconcerting,” said Carmen Perez, Executive Director, Justice League NYC. “Just as the nation felt shock witnessing a 17 year old student being violently assaulted by a police officer in her South Carolina classroom, so should every person of conscience decry systemic over-policing and over-disciplining of all our children.”
“Million Hoodies for Justice advocates for the decriminalization of Black and Brown youth that are impacted by the prison and police state. Today we are here to express our dissent but also our push for creating a reinvestment in poor communities of color and Black communities where education has long been disinvested. The school to prison pipeline is an extension of a historic disinvestment and it needs to be dismantled from every angle,” said Dante Barry, Executive Director of Million Hoodies for Justice.
“Quality education for all children is a true public school priority. If Successs Academy is to receive public funding they should not be able to pick and choose which students they want to educate, especially if that means perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline for our Black and Brown youth,” said Zakiyah Ansari Advocacy Director of Alliance for Quality Education. “There’s too much evidence that Success Academy is and will continue to push students out and for that we demand the U.S DOE withhold funding contingent upon the launch and completion of an investigation into Success Academy’s heinous practices.”
“The so-called “success” of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies is all smoke and mirrors. Her “got to go” list is more proof that she picks and chooses which students count towards her high test scores and that she gets rid of the ones that will hurt her numbers. Her ease with suspending 5 and 6 year olds at such ridiculously high rates shows that she doesn’t really care about the futures of our black and brown children. An investigation has to happen or else they will just continue contributing to the school to prison pipeline,” said Bertha Lewis of The Black Institute
“By funding charter schools that are known to disproportionately punish, push out, and funnel Black children into the criminal justice system, the DOE is essentially sanctioning the psychological, physical, & other manifestations of violence that these children are subject to. It is the responsibility of the DOE to provide Black children and all children with a safe and nurturing school environment where they can thrive holistically – and it’s clear that schools like Success Academy are none of those things,” said Karl Kumodzi of Black Youth Project 100
“The charter school sector has attempted to capitalize on black and brown lives need for a quality education for years. Success Academy in particular has been one of the biggest proponents of this, so it is especially disturbing to know that at the same time they are perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline. Education should not come at the expense of criminalizing our youth and Arne Duncan should investigate to ensure this stops today!” said Hazel Dukes of NAACP
“It’s shocking and insulting that in 2015, Success Academy is trying to defend their use of overly harsh discipline practices as a benefit to Black students. There is over two decades of research that shows these kind of zero tolerance policies are racially biased and ineffective. It is not Black children that need to change their behavior. It’s the adults that are charged with creating supportive learning environments but instead have decided students that can’t conform are disposable who need to change their behavior,” said Kesi Foster, Coordinator of Urban Youth Collaborative.
Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said: “Our young people should be treated like students en route to college, and suspensions and harsh discipline for children as young as kindergartners are simply not the answer. At a time when we’ve all seen the tragic consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline and school discipline run amok, we stand together today to demand the end of the harmful ways that Success Academy is treating its students.”
“It’s appalling that New York City’s largest charter network, Success Academy, has been able to get away with such excessive discipline practices as targeting specific students for suspensions and a “Got to Go” list,” said Reuben Traite, Lead Education Organizer at New York Communities for Change. “We demand that Arne Duncan immediately investigates the discipline practices of Success Academy.”
“When the ratio of children in lower grades being suspended in NY outweighs that of the public school system 7:1, Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy’s “Got to Go” tactics have got to go! Receiving public funding should ensure that you are held to the same standards as any public school. Arne Duncan and the DOE have a duty to uphold this truth,” said Darius Gordon of Citizen Action New York.
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