A Parent in California: What’s Wrong with Charter Schools?

IMG-6853In this post, a parent activist in Northern California succinctly described the case against charter schools.

Charter schools take resources away from the public schools, harming public schools and their students. All charter schools do this – whether they’re opportunistic and for-profit or presenting themselves as public, progressive and enlightened.

Charter schools are free to pick and choose and exclude or kick out any student they want. They’re not supposed to, but in real life there’s no enforcement. Many impose demanding application processes, or use mandatory “intake counseling,” or require work hours or financial donations from families – so that only the children of motivated, supportive, compliant families get in. Charter schools publicly deny this, but within many charter schools, the selectivity is well known and viewed as a benefit. Admittedly, families in those schools like that feature – with the more challenging students kept out of the charter – but it’s not fair or honest, and it harms public schools and their students.

Charter schools are often forced into school districts against the districts’ will. School boards’ ability to reject a charter application is limited by law; and if a school board rejects a charter application, the applicant can appeal to the county board of education and the California state board of education. Then the school district winds up with a charter forced upon it, taking resources from the existing public schools. Often this means the district must close a public school.

Anyone can apply to open and operate a charter school, and get public funding for it. The process is designed to work in their favor. They don’t have to have to be educators or show that they’re competent or honest. They may be well-meaning but unqualified and incompetent, or they may be crooks. Imagine allowing this with police stations, fire stations, public bus systems or parks.

Part of a school district’s job is to provide the right number of schools to serve the number of students in the district. When charter schools are forced into the district, that often requires existing public schools to close. Again, that harms the district and its students.

California law (Prop. 39) requires school districts to provide space for charter schools, even if the district didn’t want the charter. Charter schools are often forced into existing public schools (this is called co-location), taking space and amenities away from their students and creating conflict. This is a contentious issue in other states too.

Charter schools can be opened by almost anyone and get little oversight, so they’re ripe for corruption, looting, nepotism, fraud and self-dealing. Corruption happens in public school districts too, but charter schools offer an extra tempting opportunity for crooks, and the history of charters in California and nationwide shows that wrongdoers often grab that opportunity.

Charter schools, backed by billionaire-funded pro-privatization support and PR machinery, have positioned themselves as an enemy to school districts, public schools and teachers, sending their damaging message to politicians and the media. These charter backers pour millions into electing charter-friendly candidates. Tearing down our public school system and our teachers, as the charter sector does endlessly, harms our public schools and their students.

The charter sector tends to sort itself into two kinds of schools. Charter schools serving low-income students of color often impose military-style discipline and rigid rules – hands folded on the desk, eyes tracking the speaker, punishment for tiny dress code violations, a focus on public humiliation. By contrast, some charter schools serving children of privilege are designed to isolate the school from a district so that lower-income kids aren’t assigned to the school. Charter schools overall have been found to increase school segregation.

Charter schools overall serve far fewer children with disabilities and English-language learners than public schools. Even those designed to serve children with disabilities serve far fewer children with the types of disabilities that are most challenging and expensive to work with, such as children with severe autism or who are severely emotionally disturbed.

Despite the many advantages charter schools enjoy, they don’t do any better overall than public schools. The rallying cry for charter schools used to be that the “competition” would improve public schools, but that hasn’t happened. In charter schools’ more than 20 years of existence, they haven’t overall brought better education to impoverished communities.

*Note: This commentary applies to California charter schools and California charter laws. Many of the issues apply to charter schools in most or all other states where they exist.

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New York Magazine: Cory Booker Has a School Choice Problem

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Senator Cory Booker is seen here speaking to a voter in Silver Spring in  a Past photo.

The Democratic party is discovering that unions – which have greatly shrunken due to the attacks by right-wingers like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder – are part of their base. Union corruption in United States is real. Something needs to be done. Big labor is currently colluding with the politicians across the party lines to derail democracy in many ways. Democratic party is also discovering that school privatization is not an issue that belongs in the Democratic toolkit alone.

The 2020 candidate with the biggest school choice problem, writes Ed Kilgore at New York magazine, is Cory Booker. 

Kilgore writes that Booker

might be able to explain away his reputation for being a reliable friend of Wall Street as a matter of virtual constituent services given the financial industry’s importance to New Jersey and to the city of Newark where he served as mayor for seven years. But a more concrete problem involves his long history of support for any and every kind of school choice, including not just the charter public schools the Clinton and Obama administrations supported, but the private-school vouchers that most Democrats stridently oppose. What makes this history a fresh concern is the fact that Booker was once a close ally of the DeVos family, the Michigan gazillionaires and education privatization champions who gave the world Donald Trump’s secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Kara Voght has the story:

In 1999, when he was still a city councilman, Booker worked with a conservative financier and a New Jersey Republican mayor to co-found Excellent Education for Everyone, a group dedicated to establishing a school voucher program in the Garden State. The following year, Dick DeVos—the Republican megadonor, school choice evangelist, and husband to the nation’s 11th education secretary—invited the 31-year-old Newark councilman up to his home base of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to speak in defense of a ballot measure that would lift the state’s ban on school voucher programs …

Booker’s association with the DeVos couple continued as he progressed from City Council to Newark’s mayoral seat in 2006 to the US Senate in 2013. In the mid-2000s, Booker and DeVos served together on the board of directors of Alliance for School Choice (AFC), the precursor to the American Federation for Children, which DeVos eventually chaired. Booker twice spoke at the AFC’s annual School Choice Policy Summit: once in 2012 as a mayor and again in 2016 as a senator.

Let us be clear here. Booker’s support for charters and vouchers is unacceptable to many of us trying to reform the public schools in the United States. Many of us are education voters. Booker is unacceptable in several ways because he will protect Wall Street and others supporting school choice such as the Waltons and the Koch brothers. However, he is free to contest the highest seat in the land and convince the voters and others interested in better outcomes of the schools. The issues involved  as pertains to the public corruption in charter schools should not be taken lightly especially in Maryland.

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Union corruption is real. Something needs to be done. Big labor is currently colluding with the politicians across the party lines to derail democracy.

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Union corruption is real. Something needs to be done. Big labor is currently colluding with the politicians across the party lines to derail democracy.

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Uncontrolled corruption in charter schools is destroying America’s public schools.

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Corruption in American charter schools has become a license to steal.

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Fiasco in Tennessee: Former PGCPS Executive began contract talks before starting job

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By Reform Sasscer Staff:

In a wide ranging scheme currently playing out in Tennessee, Former Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) executive Dr. Shawn Joseph is in major water after appearing to have exported public corruption in the state. At the moment there is ongoing fiasco in which he is accused of breaking the law on contracts and misleading the local school board.

Metro Nashville Public Schools awarded millions of dollars in no-bid contracts without ever checking to see if they could get better prices, the press in Tennessee investigation discovered.

In a written statement, MNPS officials insisted checking for lower prices was unnecessary since they were “piggybacking” on contracts that other agencies had put out for bids.

“That’s the purpose of a piggyback: Use the results of a contract that was competitively bid,” the statement said.

But a veteran state auditor said piggybacking should only be used after officials have determined that it’s actually a good price.

Corruption during the procurement process affects development in several ways. First, it is likely to have a direct impact on cost. If firms have to pay bribes to win government contracts, the government is likely to have to pay more than they would have otherwise so that the firms can recoup those costs.

Corruption can affect the quality of service —particularly when firms bribe inspectors and regulators to avoid meeting contract provisions or building standards. If firms can pay bribes to avoid meeting technical requirements specified in the bidding documents, quality will also suffer. Finally, when corruption is possible, firms are likely to invest scarce management resources in cultivating government contacts rather than in other more productive measures. Because bribes are illegal—and therefore risky to offer and receive and unenforceable if the other side fails to delivered promised services—firm managers and bureaucrats will usually want to know their counterparts during corrupt transactions.

Corruption in public contracting and bribes paid to building inspectors at MGM in Prince George’s County were blamed for student electrocuted last year in the fall. An independent engineer hired by the county ­released a report describing the wiring feeding the handrail as “terrible” and some of the “sloppiest work” he has ever seen.

If firm efficiency was the only thing that affected how much the firm was willing to pay in bribes, then corruption might not have a serious impact on competition or the outcome of the bidding process. The same shenanigans playing out in Tennessee are not very different with what has been happening locally in Prince George’s County in which attorneys hired by employees have been paid off together with judges to look the other way.

In addition, contract violations similar to what is occurring in Nashville, Tennessee has occurred similarly in Prince George’s County Public Schools multiple times. At one point, one of the Superintendent Andre J. Hornsby, the former Prince George’s County schools chief convicted on public corruption charges, was sentenced to jail for willful violations.

We reprint the ongoing saga as part of the report by News channel 5 Nashville below.

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Metro Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph and former PGCPS Executive currently in Nashville Tennessee, began talks with a Utah-based technology company about a potential no-bid contract two weeks before he formally took command of the Nashville school system, emails uncovered by the press reveal.

By: Phil Williams

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph began talks with a Utah-based technology company about a potential no-bid contract two weeks before he formally took command of the Nashville school system, emails uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates reveal.

The emails, obtained through the Tennessee Public Records Act, show that Performance Matters had discussions with Joseph about how to “extend our partnership,” suggesting the company’s contract with Shelby County schools could be a “purchasing vehicle” for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

That process, known as “piggybacking,” allows companies to get government contracts without having to compete with other vendors.

“We may be able to discuss a pilot this year [if] the costs are right!” Joseph said in a follow-up email two weeks after he became director of schools.

Instead, less than six months into Joseph’s tenure, MNPS signed two no-bid contracts with Performance Matters, totaling $1.8 millon.

As a result of questions raised by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, the district admitted this week that it broke state law in awarding a $1 million, no-bid contract with Performance Matters for a student assessment platorm, piggybacking on a contract with Orange County, Florida, schools.

State law only allows piggybacking on in-state contracts.

The district signed a second, $845,000 contract with the company that was piggybacked on the Shelby County contract, although Metro changed the terms. Experts say that also violates state law.

Joseph was hired in mid-May 2016. He formally went to work July 1, although he did visit Nashville for an estimated 10 days to prepare for the job.

In a written statement, Metro Schools suggested that the Performance Matters contracts originated in 2016 after “a transition team made up of local, state and national experts shared that Nashville needed to focus on student achievement – with a sense of urgency.”

Joseph’s transition team did not release its final report until February 2017.

But the emails suggest that Joseph and Performance Matters executive Amy Wieland first talked on June 13, 2016 – a month after he was hired, but two weeks before he formally went to work.shawn-joseph-email-6-13-2016.png

Joseph proposed a discussion about “how we can best support teachers using quality formative assessments and quality unit assessments aligned to Tennessee standards.”

“We’d also be interested in high quality PD [professional development] just focused on literacy,” Joseph said in an email to Wieland. “We don’t need everything… just on-line PD to support high quality literacy instruction.”

The incoming schools director promised to check to see what Shelby County had done.

Wieland connected Joseph with Roderick “Rocky” Sams, the company’s director of education solutions.

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“As we look at how we can extend our partnership to include your current vision for MNPS, I’ve attached a copy of the recent Shelby County RFP we were just awarded for your review,” Sams said in a July 5, 2016, email to Joseph.

“It includes a “piggyback” clause … on page 5 that would allow districts to use as a purchasing vehicle.”

Joseph responded on July 18, 2016, saying: “Excellent.”

“I need to get my bearings,” the Metro Schools director continued. “We have data systems. I need to look at them and see if there is a need to enhance. If I make changes, it will be next year.”

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As NewsChannel 5 Investigates previously reported, Sams was inside MNPS offices just six weeks into Joseph’s tenure, making a pitch for Performance Matters’ products.

Talk of a “pilot” project quickly developed into the $1.8 million contracts.

Joseph had previously appeared in a promotional video for Performance Matters, touting how the company’s student assessment software had been utilized in his previous job in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He was also a keynote speaker at the company’s 2014 conference.

In response to NewsChannel 5’s questions, Joseph provided the following explanation of his relationship with Performance Matters:

“I presented at a Performance Matters Conference. The presentation was based upon a chapter in my book, The Principal’s Guide to the First 100 Days of the School Year. Performance Matters reimbursed me for my travel and accommodations for my keynote. They did not assess me a registration fee for the conference. I signed copies of my book at the event.

“I used Performance Matters as a principal in Montgomery County Public Schools. My teachers and I used the tool to dramatically improve instruction at my school. We did not use Performance Matters when I was the superintendent of Seaford Delaware. When was Deputy Superintendent in Prince George’s County Public Schools, Prince George’s County Public Schools had already had Performance Matters as a district PD and assessment platform. I was asked to do a promotional video as a result of principals and teachers in Prince George’s County using the tool to improve instruction in their schools. The school district approved me being on the video because it focused on the success of schools in Prince George’s County using the tool. I was not paid for the promotional video.”

Via News channel 5 Nashville 

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Student-principal ‘fight’ at PGCPS School not quite what it seems: police

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Video of what appeared to be a fight between a principal and a student at a high school in Prince George’s County was more one-sided than that, police said. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

By Michelle Basch 

PALMER PARK, Md. — What some people thought was a fight between a high school principal and a student Wednesday appeared to Prince George’s County police to have been more one-sided.

The incident happened at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Maryland, and was recorded by a student, police said. The video was circulated on social media.

“The video, when slowed down and examined critically, demonstrates that the student places his hand in the face of the principal. What is viewed by some to be a blow, we believe is actually the principal swiping the hand away,” said police chief Hank Stawinski.

After that, the chief said the student can be seen hitting the principal.

A school resource officer, who is a county police officer, saw what happened and used a pepper spray foam to subdue the student, Stawinski said.

“I know my parents worry about these things and I worry about them too. This is not going to contaminate the entire hallway, because it’s a foam. It’s like shaving cream. It goes where it goes, and that’s the only person who gets impacted by it,” the chief said, adding that at this point he believes the school resource officer acted appropriately.

Police use the foam in schools, as well as at FedEx Field, to ensure bystanders are not accidentally affected, Stawinski said.

Stawinski said the student, who has been charged with assault, was involved in several confrontations with school staff that day.

The principal has been placed on administrative leave until things can be sorted out.

Stawinski said both his department and the school are conducting investigations to look further into the actions of the principal and student.

He said one of the things they’ll be looking at is video from school surveillance cameras.

Via WTOP

Read more >>> 👇👇👇

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Principal Gorman Brown is shown here in action with a 17 year old student.

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Troubled waters as Md. governor fights effort to overturn order on post-Labor Day school start

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan delivers remarks at his inauguration ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Annapolis, Md. Hogan is the first Republican governor to be re-elected in the state since the 1950s. However, many watchers believe that, he won fraudulently after voter suppression in Prince George’s County and elsewhere. Keen watchers are predicting he will have a rough second term and might even be impeached from office. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By Kate Ryan

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is vowing to keep the start date for the state’s schools after the Labor Day holiday.

In a news conference in Annapolis, the governor called criticism of his 2016 executive order that mandated all schools start after Labor Day “fabricated nonsense” generated by “special interests,” and he promised to fight bills to reverse the order.

“Sadly, this commonsense action is now being threatened by out-of-touch politicians and paid political operatives,” Hogan said.

Hogan said having schools start after Labor Day had been debated in the past — with strong support for the change, and cited a poll that said nearly 70 percent of Marylanders supported the later start date.

“We’ve taken a lot of actions over the past four years, but I can’t think of any action that has as much widespread, enthusiastic support as this one does,” he told reporters.

If the bill to reverse his order is passed and schools are given the ability to open before Labor Day, the governor said he’s prepared to take a number of actions. First, he said he would submit legislation to codify his 2016 executive order into statute.

Hogan also said that would include requiring any local school system looking to change the start date to put the question to a referendum within that jurisdiction.

Hogan warned: “I just want to be on record saying that I assure you that any school board that actually attempts to subvert the will of the people in that jurisdiction — those hearings are going to be packed with people who will be letting the local school board know how they feel about trying to make that change.”

Finally, Hogan said if lawmakers move ahead with their plan, he would move to put the question to a statewide referendum. In that case, he said: “There will be a petition to referendum. They will gather the required signatures from one corner of the state to the other. It will be placed on the ballot, and there is a 100 percent chance that the voters will overturn any action by the legislature with a more than 70 percent vote and school after Labor Day will remain the law in this state.”

Outside the House chambers, Del. David Moon, said given other pressing issues facing lawmakers, from health care to employment issues, he found it surprising that Hogan would put such emphasis on the school calendar bill.

“The idea that he would go and try to gather signatures on the issue of having school start after Labor Day — I mean that’s the definition of misplaced priorities,” Moon said.

Del. Vaughn Stewart said, “local jurisdictions should be able to decide local issues like local school calendars.”

Hogan said the current law allows schools to set their own academic calendars; it just requires that schools start after Labor Day.

Del. Eric Leudtke said, “I think there is interest statewide in making this a local decision,” and he insisted that the change would not affect school systems where the later start date is favored. “

“If school systems on the shore want to start after Labor Day, that’s great,” he said.

He also noted that many school systems schedule days off that are unique to their jurisdictions. He mentioned Frederick County’s decision to give students time off during the Great Frederick Fair.

“They do things like that all over the state but it should be a local decision,” he added.

Leudtke also said that school systems — such as Montgomery County — where an earlier school start date was in place before 2016, wanted to start before Labor Day to ensure more instructional time to children, many of whom face economic and social disadvantages.

“Longer summers disproportionately hurt students of low income,” Leudtke said. “We know that a longer summer means middle-class families in Maryland have had to pay more for summer day care.”

Hogan dismissed objections that suggest a later school start date hurts students, saying “All of that of course, is completely fabricated nonsense.”

During floor debate on the bill to reverse Hogan’s 2016 executive order, Senate President Mike Miller said he had favored the move to push the school start date to after Labor Day. But noting that Maryland’s education rankings had fallen in recent years — Maryland’s schools rank eighth in the nation according to a 2018 Quality Counts report — Miller said he’s changed his mind.

“Times change, circumstances change, and there’s reasons why votes change — and this is the reason my vote is changing on this issue,” he said.

Via WTOP 

Read more >>> Unacceptable as Maryland Governor Hogan pushes to spend millions more on the “BOOST” voucher program

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Senator Paul Pinsky is among the fearless leaders who are going after Governor Larry Hogan heads on. His concerns are valid and already met with parents in the Prince George’s County. The measure Senate bill 128 is on fast track in the General Assembly, with quick passage expected. It is expected Gov. Hogan will veto the measure and the legislature will attempt an override; which means that parents might want to hold off on the late summer vacation bookings for a couple of weeks.

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Senator Nancy King is among the fearless leaders who are going after Governor Larry Hogan heads on. Her concerns are valid following feedback from the community.

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Del. Eric Leudtke said, “I think there is interest statewide in making this a local decision,” and he insisted that the change would not affect school systems where the later start date is favored. “

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Unacceptable as Maryland Governor Hogan pushes to spend millions more on the “BOOST” voucher program

BOOST-FB-ShareBy Reform Sasscer Staff:

ACLU of Maryland has highlighted a suspicious agenda which is currently being rolled out by our current Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. The civil rights organization is calling Maryland Governor’s actions as “unacceptable”.

The Maryland Governor Hogan is pushing to spend millions more on the “BOOST” voucher program for students to attend private schools, most with religious curriculums, discriminate against students, especially LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.

Without proper accountability in place for public and private schools, the millions of dollars being disbursed to private schools is clearly being siphoned off as part of an organized scheme.

Tell your state legislators to end Maryland’s voucher program for private and religious schools program ASAP.  The public corruption in Maryland Schools is out of control and there is currently no proper accountability of public funds.

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current Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is accused of pushing to spend millions more on the “BOOST” voucher program for students to attend private schools, most with religious curriculums, discriminate against students, especially LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.

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Swamp Watch: PGCPS Principal on Leave After major ‘Brawl’ With Student

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Principal Gorman Brown will be on leave until further notice. The circumstances of the altercation are under investigation.

By Reform Sasscer Staff:

 – A Prince George’s County Public Schools principal is on leave after an alleged assault that ended with a 17-year-old student getting pepper-sprayed and with tears in his eyes.

A school resource officer at Charles Herbert Flowers High School told police that the student assaulted principal Gorman Brown. The school said the principal and the student were in a physical altercation caught on video Wednesday.

The video, widely shared among students and parents, appears to show Principal Gorman Brown in a major brawl with a boy student, believed to be 17, swinging at each other in the school hallway. A caption on the video, filmed on a cellphone, suggests that Brown “hit him first.”

School officials are now looking into information that there was a separate altercation involving the student prior to what is shown in the video.

Late Wednesday evening, police confirmed that they are investigating the incident.

They say the incident occurred around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday afternoon when the principal was asked to find a 17-year-old who had just left a classroom after being disruptive.

They say a Prince George’s County Police Resource Officer was present during the incident.

According to police, the SRO intervened and pepper sprayed the student. The student’s face was washed and he refused further medical treatment. Because he is a juvenile, police will not release his name or details on any charges. But police say the student was released from custody.

Area 3 Associate Superintendent, Dr. Carletta T. Marrow, confirmed the incident in a letter to parents and guardians dated February 6. “Earlier today, there was an alleged physical altercation between a student and Principal Gorman Brown,” the letter read.

“The circumstances are under investigation. Mr Brown has been placed on leave until further notice. Assistant Principal Ronald Miller will serve as Administrator in Charge in the interim.

“The safety of our students and staff members is our top priority. Safe learning environments are our collective responsibility. Today’s incident is not in line with our school mission and values.

“Please discuss with your child acceptable behaviors that support a positive school climate. Concerns about safety or well-being should be shared with a trusted adult.”

Brown was previously in the news after he and two other Prince George’s County Public Schools employees sued Herbert Flowers High following the discovery of a hidden surveillance camera inside the principal’s office.

Brown, along with resident principal Mar-C Holland and secretary Donna Bussey, said the camera was disguised as a smoke detector and may have been installed in 2016, reported Fox 5 DC. We covered that story here previously.

According to the lawsuit, the camera was discovered on April 13, 2018, although it is still unclear who authorized it to be installed. The lawsuit stated that the camera could have not only recorded staff members getting changed in the office, but also the school’s Pom team.

There has been many fights throughout the Prince George’s County School District which are being covered up by the administration. At the moment, Crossland High School followed by Dr. Henry Wise High School carries the flag as the epicenter of area school fights. Many parents have complained repeatedly of various youth fights with the aggressors walking away without consequences. A mother recently called while upset after she said staff didn’t intervene in school fight timely as her daughter was being clobbered.

If you have any information regarding the incident, call (301) 772-4930.

The letter sent home regarding the incident to parents is attached below:

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Principal Gorman Brown is shown here in action with a student. 

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