Parent Horror Stories from BASIS: Corporate Charter Hurting Children?
Today I am blogging about two parent horror stories from BASIS. Let me just warn you, after hearing parents talk about what allegedly happened to their children at BASIS, you will likely be in a surly mood learning about this corporate (quasi-for profit) charter chain. The BASIS corporate charter chain is now a very unfavorite of mine. Who/What is BASIS? Wikipedia describes the BASIS corporate charter schools:
BASIS Schools, Inc. is an Arizona charter school operator. It operates eight schools in Arizona and one in the District of Columbia….BASIS recently announced plans to add three more schools for the 2013-2014 year: one in Ahwatukee, one in San Antonio, Texas, and a new K-4 program near their original location in Tucson.
I first blogged about BASIS in the post What BASIS?: Nepotism and aggrandizement in charters? (One of the interesting things about the first BASIS post is that 50-100 people read that post each day) I am always curious where that traffic is coming from. At the time, I included Charter School Scandals uncovered about BASIS:
The schools are the brainchild of Michael and Olga Block, who envisioned a college-prep curriculum that would rival the best countries. The first school opened in 1998 in Tucson. A second followed in 2003 in Scottsdale.
For years, the Blocks worked for and were paid by the non-profit schools. Michael was the chief operating officer and treasurer, Olga the chief executive officer.
The Blocks later formed a separate, for-profit company and in 2009 signed a service agreement with the non-profit that provides Basis’ six schools with most everything they need to operate: school directors, teachers, accounting, technology, human resources, public relations and Michael and Olga Block…
Basis Inc. denied a request from The Arizona Republic to review a copy of its agreement with the Blocks’ company.
The state also is limited in what it can find out about management companies. The state charter board can audit only the charter school, not the private company hired to run the school’s operations…
A few of the Blocks’ relatives also received money for work performed for the schools, including a relative who performed accounting services for the schools in the Czech Republic, as recently as fiscal 2009.
The tax returns no longer include these details because the Blocks work for the privately held company, not the non-profit. Michael Block said the company is a private business and declined to discuss salaries or whether family members are performing work for the schools…
So that is some quick background on BASIS. Gene Glass, Arizona State professor emeritus, recently posted A Basis Schools Horror Story. In this post a parent described the situation at BASIS for her child. A quick summary:
Background and Introduction to BASIS San Antonio: “When we learned about BASIS San Antonio, it sounded too good to be true.”
The Education: “Throughout the school year, he gave up all extracurricular activities in order to complete the homework requirements”
Challenges: “According to children attending the school, the students were kind, respectful and courteous but the parents were bullies to each other and the students. By the end of the school year, mandatory detention for any and all infractions was developed and highly enforced with no oversight by the Head of School.”
Charter Schools Have No Nurse: “Because there was no nurse and no nurse’s station, when our son became extremely ill at school, he was sent to the boy’s bathroom and was unsupervised by an adult for over 45 minutes while young boys using the restroom walked in and out of the restroom. When I arrived at the school, he was lying on his backpack under the urinals in the boy’s bathroom… When I posted the facts of what happened to our son on the school Facebook page in order to work with other parents to discuss Best Practices at other charter schools and to discuss solutions, over 75 personal threatening comments from other parents were posted in response to my comment asking to work together for a positive solution comment.”
Unsafe Conditions: “Students at BASIS would frequently steal each others lunches, backpacks, cell phones and other personal property with no direction from the administration of the school.”
Charter Schools Have No Lunch Program: “There is no lunch program at charter schools. My son had his lunch stolen from his backpack by another student. The students are not allowed to use the phone at the school and my son went an entire day without eating food. He snuck a crust of another student’s pizza out of the garbage can to sustain himself during the day.”
Lack of Governance: “I contacted Victoria Rico, the Chairman of the George Brackenridge Foundation. I offered to help the school obtain access to a nurse at no cost, help establish collaboration with local hospital systems and help obtain grants to help fund, the result was very positive. A meeting with the CEO of the Texas BASIS Schools was scheduled. The result of the meeting with the CEO was that there was no interest on the part of BASIS San Antonio to collaborate with the community nor add infrastructure that was not required. Dan Neinhauser, CEO of BTX (Basis Texas)”
Lack of Nurturing and Compassion: “We have a 22 year old daughter with a terminal illness. I emailed all of our son’s teachers/administrators to let them know that our son may need additional support and at times could be sad due to the situation at home. Not one teacher or administrator communicated back. I called and left messages with all teachers. No calls were returned. I contacted Mr. Ross, new Assistant Head of School and he claimed that he received the email but he was transitioning into his new role and just forgot to contact us.”
Mandatory Detention: “A note came home stating that BASIS would be implementing a mandatory detention for students who were late to class and unprepared in any way. The first week, my son received mandatory detention for forgetting a dry erase marker in Algebra, for not completing three problems out of 180 required Algebra problems and forgetting a poem in English Class.”
The End of BASIS for our Son: “On May 6th, 2014, I was called by Mr. Ross, Assistant Head of School. He was Dr. Abby Hasberry’s replacement, (she was hired to be the Head of School for the new BASIS North Campus). My son was found alive yet mentally nonresponsive sitting on the floor under an Art Table. Upon arriving at the school, I immediately knew that he needed mental health support. I took him to Clarity Child Guidance Center. Upon evaluating my son, the diagnosis was extreme depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal thoughts to harm himself. The hospital / psychiatrist medical opinion, they believed that our son was suffering from PTSD from the experiences at the school due to the rigorous educational requirements coupled with the mandatory detention had become a source of terror for him. Our son is now a patient at Clarity Child Guidance Center. He spent time inpatient at the hospital and is now receiving day program outpatient treatment at a cost of $835 per day inpatient and $125 per day outpatient.”
Terror – Not an Isolated Experience: “I contacted Victoria Rico at the George Brackenridge Foundation and she asked if she could help “make it right” for our family. She offered to help find another school for him to attend. The damage has been done. We feel comfort and extreme sadness to learn that our son’s experience at BASIS San Antonio is not an isolated experience. When we took our son to Clarity Child Guidance Center both the psychiatrist and counselor both told us that other children had been seen inpatient and outpatient at the facility and had been at BASIS San Antonio, same symptoms, same story.”
The BASIS parent concluded,
We have no idea where to take our son for education at this point. But, we know that whatever decision we make that nurturing and compassion of a child must be the foremost important factor in the choice we make. Our son was terrorized at a high performance charter school and he is not the only one. This can not be the future of children in our community. We are publicly sharing our experiences because it should have never happened to our son. He was a victim and more importantly he is 12 years old. Children should be in a safe and nurturing environment. BASIS San Antonio is more of a concentration camp than a school for children.
Oh, but there is more… now for an exclusive story to Cloaking Inequity from a BASIS parent. What you are about to read is unsolicited— as the parent came to Cloaking Inequity with her concerns after the BASIS was non-responsive to her in the manner that she felt was appropriate.
The beginning of the 2013-2014 school year for my child was the start of a new educational and social endeavor at the newly founded Basis San Antonio charter school. As the year comes to a close, my child is not the only one reflecting on what he learned this year. As a parent, I am also reflecting on what I have learned about my child’s new school, and its harsh educational climate. I learned that although Basis claims to accept children of all races, ethnicities, and disabilities, they are not culturally sensitive nor equipped to assist children with disabilities. I learned that although the United States of America has established laws protecting the civil rights of children with disabilities, my protection is limited to what I can afford to pay for legal counsel and defense. I learned that Basis will “woo” potential students and parents with false promises. More concerning, I learned that Basis San Antonio will open another school next school year.
Our story at Basis San Antonio began much like a romantic tale, with interest, intrigue, and hope for the future. We could not resist the Basis appeal with all its promises and presumed prestige. So, we took the plunge and enrolled our 6 grade child at Basis San Antonio in the fall of 2013. There was a courting period, including open houses, informational sessions, and campus tours. Next, there were the promises of endless opportunities, a world class facility, an exciting curriculum, top notch educators, and more. These vows were seemingly executed the first week of school, when teachers were literally opening car doors for students at the curb. The staff collectively appeared friendly, understanding, and willing to help my child, who has a disability that affects his academic performance.
As a parent, I was “wooed” by Basis. We were sure that Basis was the “one” for us – the school that would accept all children regardless of color, creed, or impairment. Who wouldn’t fall in love with this charter school initially? Who would have thought our year would end with a hearing, and a desperate search for legal counsel?
Basis San Antonio has a Special Education Director, who held a meeting and created a 504 Accommodation Plan for my child in the fall of 2013. Section 504 is an amendment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 law that prohibits the discrimination on the basis of disability. Much to my surprise, drawing up a 504 Accommodation Plan was the extent of the service we got from Basis. There were no plans implemented or followed up on throughout the fall months. The spring was no different. The evidence first came when I saw my child’s failing grades. Basis ignored my steady emails day after day, and week after week. With every failing quiz, test, and progress report, I sent my concerns to the Special Education Director, Head of School, and teachers, which were met with no reply, dismissive attitude, or disciplinary action against my child. It was clear that the honeymoon was over.
As failing grades became the norm for my child, my e-mails to the school staff and administration began to accumulate. It was January and still no response from the Basis Administration. It was difficult to watch my child struggle with his disability, and watch his self-esteem plummet. Knowing that pre-comprehension exams were quickly approaching, I continued writing e-mails with specific concerns about my child’s 504 testing accommodations for the exams. With still no response from Basis, I contacted my child’s doctor with hopes that a change in medication would help him cope with the educational demands.
The lack of aid I received from Basis over e-mail correspondence was only met with deficient assistance face-to-face. January 16th, I attempted to pick up my child from Basis for a cardiologist appointment, they refused to release him because it was not the “right time,” and was against their policy. Confused, I coiled into a corner of the lobby and e-mailed the Head of School once more, this time to let her know I was being denied my child, and that he needed to be released to me. Seeing there was an apparent disconnect between Basis and I, I sent a subsequent e-mail to the Head of School explaining the scarce communication I had received regarding my child’s academic progress. In return, I never received a response from Head of School. On January 21st a Basis administrator contacted me to reiterate Basis’ release policy. I voiced my concerns about the failure to accommodate my child’s disability and the ability to take him to the doctor for alternative medication. She stated she would look into my child’s 504 Accommodation Plans and that she would contact me. This administrator never called me back.
I continued my barrage of emails February and March, addressed to the Head of School, Special Education Director, and teachers. Finally, after months of concerns, the Special Education Director agreed to meet with me. On March 5th, the director confirmed that the 504 accommodations were not being met and blamed my child, claiming he chose not to “participate.” She did not have a response as to why I was not informed about my child’s alleged failure to comply, or why no one responded to my continuous questions and concerns. She proceeded to inform me that my child performed poorly in his pre-comprehension exams. I requested an evaluation of my son’s 504 Accommodation Plan and a meeting with all his teachers. To increase parent-teacher communication and clarify assignments due, I proposed an alternate planner to the Basis communication journal “CJ”; the Special Education Director stated she would seek approval from the Head of School. On March 20th the Special Education Director responded by e-mail reporting the Head of School declined my request for an alternate planner to the Basis “CJ,” however, recommended a teacher change.
After my meeting with the Special Education Director, I scheduled Basis method of scheduling parent-teacher conferences/15 minute brief sessions with each of his eight teachers. On March 24th, I was scheduled to meet with my child’s algebra teacher at 7:00 am however after arriving 5 minutes late; she would not meet with me. To my disbelief and after months of e-mails, instead, I found myself meeting with the Head of School.
During our meeting, the Head of School informed me that my child’s algebra teacher did not feel comfortable meeting with me. I came prepared with information and an article about my child’s disability and with ideas of how I could help my child at home with hopes she could guide me. Instead, the Head of School stated she would be placing my child in 5th grade effective immediately, and that my child would be retained the following year if I choose to continue at Basis. She asked me numerous times why I wanted my child at Basis. When I stated my child wanted to attend Basis, she wanted to know why he wanted to attend Basis, to which I responded “who wouldn’t want to attend the ‘world’s best school’?” I asked why my child did not receive 504 accommodations, to which she responded she did not know, and that was not her responsibility. She denied ever receiving my numerous emails. I stated that it appeared unfair for Basis to fail my child after not assuring my child’s disability was accommodated as outlined at the beginning of the year. I explained not providing accommodations is like not providing my child prescription eye glasses so he can read a book, this was an example that was given in a CHADD article. CHADD.org is an authority on my child’s disability, and recommended by my our doctor. Head of School emphatically disagreed with the article. I also requested a full Special Education Evaluation on the grounds that Basis stated my child is not functioning at the same pace as his peers.
Retaliation began after I asserted my child’s 504 rights; he was disciplined for actions related to his disability. I requested copies of the discipline referrals/reports requiring detention of my son; however Head of School stated they do not document when students are sent to the office or detention. Further retaliation, a 504 re-evaluation would be held without me as I was removed as a viable decision maker for my child’s academic planning. April 1st, Head of School, referred to me as a “guest” with regard to my participation in 504 planning meetings. There appeared to be no regard for my knowledge of my child’s academic, medical, social and emotional history. In a calm but eerie tone she stated if I did not like this, I could contact the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Head of School was unapologetic for the lack of 504 accommodations, concern for my child, and disregard for my parental rights.
After months of expressing my concerns for the lack of regard to my child’s disability, the 504 re-evaluation was conducted. Despite my protest on April 2, Head of School informed me that the meeting was held without me. I requested a copy of my procedural safeguards which was emailed to me and I followed the hearing procedure. April and May went by and the 504 accommodations still appeared ambiguous. During this time it appears the Special Education Director left Basis. May 21st, I met the new Special Education Director and all my child’s teachers all at once in a “staffing” who basically informed that my child still was not preforming well. During this meeting, Head of School tried to convenience me that my child should have a choice in his accommodations to which I disagreed. May ended with little change to my child’s academic progress and teacher/administration apathy continued. Basis did hire an attorney to defend their position and a pre-hearing conference was held.
Along with their own attorney, Basis hired a “non-bias” attorney to serve as a hearing officer. Our hearing date is July 15, 2014. Seeing the enormity of the situation, I contacted Disability Rights, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, OCR, MALDEF, and other nonprofit agencies. I received letters of denial from these agencies, except MALDEF, who has not returned my calls. I am grateful to the Office of Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who responded by assisting me with a complaint to TEA. Currently, a response is pending from Congressman Joaquin Castro with hopes of reviewing our OCR complaint.
Essentially, I have to defend my child’s disability rights against two attorneys, who are well-versed in educational law. Its Basis attorney’s job to assure my child’s rights are denied, and that my parental rights are stripped. Are the events of this year tactics Basis San Antonio practices to scare away children who do not meet their academic standards? Other Basis parents who did not feel supported transferred out earlier this year, should we have moved too? My child was emotionally tormented and struggled entire school year trying to maneuver through the Basis curriculum without his 504 accommodations. What I learned is Basis San Antonio lacks empathy, skill, and proper staff to support neither disabled children nor their parents. More importantly, how can a “world class” publically funded, educational institution be permitted to ignore the needs of their disabled students and their parent’s constant cries for help?
First, what can be done to assist this parent of special education at BASIS? Is there someone out there that will step up to the plate and pursue these allegations legally on behalf of these parents…
We must hold the Blocks, the BASIS Board of Directors, policymakers in the city of San Antonio, the influential elite pouring millions into corporate charters, and the Brackenridge Foundation accountable for allowing this alleged treatment of children at BASIS. These allegations must be investigated. Please Facebook Like, Tweet, etc below and/or reblog to share this discussion widely about BASIS. We must counter the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent (and profit derived) to do this to children.
For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on charters go here.
p.s. For those of you that want to write that BASIS is just fine for your kids in the comments…
We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. Cesar Chavez
p.s.s. Also, BASIS cheerleaders that will inevitably try to post here, you must include your real name or your cheerleading comments will be rejected immediately. They may be rejected anyways because BASIS has put me in a really surly mood today.
Click here for Vitae.
Please blame Siri for any typos