Who Will Step In To Help These Students?
With allegations of harboring a bullying culture and enabling sexual misconduct, will anyone hold the NVMI charter school accountable?
“our office [works] to ensure every child has access to a safe, high-quality education.”
- José Cole-Gutiérrez, LAUSD Charter School Division
When the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) School Board voted to deny the North Valley Military Institute’s (NVMI) charter renewal in 2017, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) overruled its decision. In making this decision the LACOE board ignored the fact that a current, certified copy of the school’s required annual independent audit was not on file, that a lawsuit alleging “abhorrent child sex abuse” had been filed against the school, and that its own staff had found that NVMI was failing in governance, student achievement, organizational management, and fiscal operations.
With LACOE saving NVMI from its well-deserved death sentence, the LAUSD was powerless to keep the charter school from demanding space on one of its campuses. Under PROP-39, a charter school can force its way onto public school campuses no matter the disruption to the existing students even if that publicly funded private school is poorly run, hemorrhaging money and endangering its students.
The space that NVMI was given was on the campus of Sun Valley High School. Currently, the LAUSD’s Valley Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (VOCES) operates at the site. According to a letter sent on behalf of the VOCES community to LACOE, the students and staff continue to be adversely affected by the presence of NVMI on their campus.
Among the accusations made against the charter school are that its students were taunting a VOCES student participating in an Adapted P.E. class. The target of their verbal attack was his disability. This was not an isolated incident as this same student with Special Education needs was found “upset and crying” at another time because “several NVMI students were making fun of him by pointing and laughing at him.”
Allegations of bullying were not limited to students. Immediately after NVMI was granted a VOCES classroom, one of its teachers was accused of removing the previous occupant’s belongings and kicking VOCES students out of the room. After a VOCES administrator intervened, the VOCES teacher was given 30 minutes to “pack up [her] belongings and class materials”.
Most alarmingly, NVMI is accused of allowing a staff member to return “to campus after being away for some time.” The staff member's departure occurred after he was named in a lawsuit alleging that he hosted a “school-sponsored party at his home” where an NVMI administrator, Coty Brice Tshappat, “played a sexualized game of truth and dare” where “students were forced to kiss/lick [the administrator’s] feet and beard.”
While NVMI’s five-year charter renewal was supposed to come before the LAUSD board this year, a rider was snuck into the state budget by Gavin Newsom automatically extending all existing charters by two years. This will delay accountability for schools like NVMI and means that the LAUSD will have to get creative to kick the charter school off its campus and protect the students of VOCES.
NVMI knows that the newly seated LAUSD School Board is more inclined to take action and has, therefore, contracted with a former board member, and current “Strategist” for the Associated Administrators Los Angeles (AALA), David Tokofsky, to provide public relations efforts, including “supporting charter renewal efforts.” They will also likely lean on support from Jerry Brown, who helped turn the school into a faux “military institute.” Supporters of public education have their work cut out for them.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.
About the Creator
Carl J. Petersen
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.
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