KIPP South Fulton Academy

Charter school faces withdrawals over punishment (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 22, 2009)

A south Fulton County charter school following one of the most lauded education programs nationwide is embroiled in a dispute over discipline that has led at least seven parents to yank their children out midyear.

The parents were so angry at what they saw as excessive punishment at KIPP South Fulton Academy that they complained to several agencies, including the Fulton school board and state Department of Education.

The parents said a group of children were mistreated by teachers who separated them from their peers in class and at lunch. The students, parents said, reported sitting on the floor and said one girl urinated on herself after not being allowed to use the restroom immediately.

School administrators said they erred in not calling parents as soon as their children got in trouble. First-year principal Jondré Pryor said he also should have done more to warn parents about the high expectations for conduct, as well as academics.

“I’m really saddened that the kids are gone,” Pryor said.

David Jernigan, executive director of KIPP Metro Atlanta, said the group has no plans to remove the administrators or teachers involved, adding, “We sincerely have learned from this mistake.”

Parents file complaints about Georgia’s 113 publicly funded charters infrequently, state Associate Superintendent Andrew Broy said. The schools, approved by local district boards or the state, are excused from some state mandates so they can try innovative approaches.

This is the first parent complaint the state has received about KIPP South Fulton, which opened in 2003 and teaches about 300 students in grades five through eight in an old public school building in East Point.

Discipline is a hallmark of the Knowledge Is Power Program, which operates 66 schools nationwide. KIPP is known for bringing high test scores and college-prep skills to children at higher risk of academic failure. The school is a big commitment, with long weekdays and Saturday and summer sessions.

The dispute erupted in December, after a teacher made a group of fifth-graders she said had been disrupting class sit in the back of the room. Kofi Kinney, who is also dean of operations, dubbed the group “The Little Rock Nine,” a reference to the African-American children who were blocked from, then allowed into, high school in Arkansas in 1957. The KIPP students, who are African-American like most of their classmates, later became the “KIPP Nine.”

The punishment continued in several other teachers’ classes. Kinney and the parents disagree on how long it lasted, but they say it was at least seven school days. The students — 17, eventually — ate lunch in silence and missed some school activities.

Parents said when they found out about the punishment, they demanded it end and asked for an apology.

Parent India Wood withdrew her son in February after he told her, ” ‘I can’t take them yelling at me 10 hours today.’ “

“They cannot be emotionally abused,” she said.

Some parents said their children needed counseling afterward.

“I just feel like these kids have been mistreated,” said Cordelia Johnson, who withdrew her son in January. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the emotional for the academic.”

KIPP leaders said no child was maltreated. Pryor and Kinney said they ended the punishment and apologized to parents and students. She said she had hoped separating the group, a common KIPP strategy, would motivate them to behave and return quickly to the class.

Kinney said she regretted the “Little Rock” reference, which she chose because she felt the students had encountered a barrier to their education. “I do feel the parents could have misunderstood or felt hurt by that,” she said. “That was not my intention.”

She and Pryor said the children’s learning was never disrupted and they were not forced to sit on the floor. Furthermore, Pryor said teachers told him they didn’t see the girl raise her hand asking to go to the bathroom during a gradewide session. She is still enrolled at the school.

Former KIPP teacher Reginald Christian, however, said the girl told him afterward that she had asked a teacher and was told she could not use the restroom.

Kinney said some punished students stayed and are doing better than before.

Parents have also complained to the KIPP board and the state Division of Family and Children Services, which said no child neglect had occurred.

The Fulton district found the school did not appear to have broken its charter agreement, spokeswoman Susan Hale said. Broy said it’s the district’s job, not the state’s, to make sure KIPP follows its charter.

Wood, who filed the state and Fulton complaints, said she wants Kinney fired.

Pryor said he won’t do that. He declined to discuss personnel matters but added, “I held my staff member accountable.” He and Kinney said they attempted to repair the rift with parents. “We tried, and we tried and we tried,” Kinney said.

Enrollment has dropped to 287 from 320 at the school’s start, but leaders said such attrition is not unusual. Pryor said he would welcome back the withdrawn students: “I feel like this is the ideal environment for them.”


Arielle said...

My teacher is Kofi Kinney and she is a wonderful teacher and Mr.Pryor our pricipal and director is right, who would wanna fire Ms.Kinney??? She is the best science teacher ever!!!

armani said...

my teacher is mrs.kinney and she has made us lose some of the things that we earn she has always been yellin at us and i tell my mom but she say deal with it and i just go crazy i like her some time she said she dont like us and she throw our things

Isaac said...

mrs.kinney is not a "mean teacher". She dose what is in the intres of there edcation. She may get a little loud but thats becuse she has told you to do something 3 times. I'm a 6th grade now and on the Crct in her class I GOT 899. That mean something's working. Right

Anonymous said...

ms kinney is worst teacher ever

raven said...

Miss kinney was may teacher last year.she may be aggressive just to get iyr attention not to hurt us

Arionna said...

Ms. Kinney needs to be fired she is always yelling at me and one time she cussed at us and put me out the classroom the whole period for no reason and told me it was a 0 and i couldn't make it up she make fire station stand up for 25 min in the hallway before we can sit down and eat lunch then we only have like 5 mins then she has favorites who never get in trouble no matter what they do once i got to 6th she was all was butting in to my life if i was in the hallway and my book fell and i was trying to pick it up she would give me multiple deductions and make me miss the first five mins of class she is horrible and she needs to be fired

Kristen M said...

I haapen to disagree with most of these comments. Mrs.Kinney is actually a very good teacher. Yes, we all make mistakes, we're human. She has higher expectations for us because she knows that we can do better. She rocks her science lessons. She doesn't do all of that stuff that the last girl said, but sometimes she can be rough. Like I said before, she expects more than she gets, which causes her to have to give us that push( deductions). She helped me get my first 900, and I've always tried hard to get there, and she helped my other teammates and I. She always has tons of alumni that used to be in her class that come to see her and help out. She really is an amazing teacher!

Anonymous said...

Kaylon Johnson
Mrs.Kinney is an amazing teacher who is just doing her job.

Anonymous said...

Mrs.Kinney is an amazing teacher she has taught me a lot that I that I use now as a 7th grader. Kids need to learn how to adjust it is not her fault.Mrs.Kinney you are the best!

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Kinney is a good teacher, but her attitude and means of discipline is just mean. It is unnecessary to belittle a child in order to teach them. I don't like her. She doesn't even speak to me. I am a parent with a child at Kipp SFA

AJV said...

Ms.KInney is a really nice teacher to me. She might get mad over the smallest things but that doesnt make her a mean teacher. All you have to do is get on here good side.:)

Anonymous said...

I really hate ms.kinney, I know hate is a strong word but I agree to disagree with what the people before me are saying so..sorry

Bouchra Naciri said...

I heard Ms.LeePow and Mrs.Kenney alway disagree with each other. I thought it was a bad idea to put two teacher in the same class to teach the scholars at KIPP 5th grade science. I think ALL the teachers in KIPP are great!

-Bouchra Naciri

Bouchra Naciri said...

I heard Ms.LeePow and Mrs.Kenney alway disagree with each other. I thought it was a bad idea to put two teacher in the same class to teach the scholars at KIPP 5th grade science. I think ALL the teachers in KIPP are great!

-Bouchra Naciri

MeKayla Roberson said...

Anyway kipp is a great school. but they don't even have qualified teachers in our grades they should stop worrying so much about behavior and focus on the high level of education they promised.