Thursday, September 14, 2017

Why Emily Kim, former attorney for Success Academy, should not be allowed to start her own charter school



       
This email was sent yesterday as a public comment to the SUNY charter committee and the Charter School Institute, to urge them to reject the application of Emily Kim to start her own charter school in District 6. See also Tory Frye's letter of opposition here.

By email to:  charters@SUNY.edu

September 13, 2017

To the SUNY Charter committee and Board:

I urge you to reject the proposed authorization of the Zeta charter school, for many of the reasons cited by the Tory Frye of the D6 Community Education Council,[1] but also because Emily Kim, the proposed founder, was the chief attorney for the Success Academy chain while the network proceeded to repeatedly violate state and federal laws and deprive students of their civil rights.

More specifically:

  • ·         In October 2015, Success Academy retaliated against a parent of a special needs child who had spoken on a PBS show about his repeated illegal suspensions by Success, by posting her child’s disciplinary file online and sending the link to reporters nationwide.  This action was a flagrant violation of his federal privacy rights according to FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. [2]

  • ·         Only after the parent, Fatima Geidi, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education, and several months ensued did Success Academy finally take down his file.[3]

  • ·         On January 20, 2016, parents of 13 current and former students of Success Academy filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education, accusing the network of discriminating against students with disabilities by denying them their mandated services, repeatedly suspending them without providing alternative instruction, and in some cases pushing them out.  This complaint was joined NYC Public Advocate Letitia James; Councilman Daniel Dromm, the chair of the NYC Council Education Committee; Legal Services NYC; the Legal Aid Society; MFY Legal Services; the Partnership for Children’s Rights; and the New York Legal Assistance Group.[4] 

  • ·         Subsequently, the federal Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation into Success Academy’s discriminatory practices, the results of which have not yet been released.[5]

  • ·         SUNY itself was reported to have launched its own investigation into Success Academy’s push-out policies, and more specifically the infamous “Got to Go” list. [6]

  • ·         In April 2016, parents at Success Academy Fort Greene launched a new federal lawsuit, alleging "illegal, discriminatory" campaign against children with special needs , including  sending their children to emergency rooms without cause, illegally suspending them, and threatening to call the Administration for Children's Services if they refused to pick their child up early from school These parents are represented by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and Advocates for Justice.[7]
  • ·         In addition, the application for this new charter school should be rejected since Ms. Kim is planning to co-locate her school in a district public school building, which would prevent the already-overcrowded schools in the district from having sufficient space to reduce class size, as previously agreed upon by the city in its original Contracts for Excellence plan. [8]
  • ·         In July 2017, a legal complaint was filed against DOE with the NY State Education Department for failing to comply with the its state-approved Contracts for Excellence class size reduction plan.  [9]  This complaint was prepared by the Education Law Center on behalf of Class Size Matters, the Public Advocate, the Alliance for Quality Education and nine NYC public school parents.[10]

Until the results of the investigations by the federal Office of Civil Rights and SUNY are released and these complaints and lawsuits are decided, it would be premature and ill-considered to allow Ms. Kim to open her own charter school, given her history of facilitating and defending repeated violations of children’s civil rights. 

Below are additional personal observations by Fatima Geidi of Ms. Kim’s behavior, while her child attended Upper West Success Academy.

Yours sincerely,
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director
_________
To the SUNY board:

Emily Kim worked for Success Academy from August 2011 to June 2017 as first the General Counsel, then Chief Policy & Legal Officer, and finally the Executive VP for Legal Affairs.  From August 2011 - February 2014 my son attended Upper West Success Academy. 

Emily Kim had a personal hand in making sure my son's IEP was not met. This happened continuously from first to third grade. She conducted herself unprofessionally in meetings, emails, and during phone conversations. On more than one occasion I had to not only seek but retain legal counsel to try to protect his civil rights and to obtain his mandated services as required by his IEP. 

When I was banned from entering the school, Emily personally enforced the ban with no evidence of any misdeed on my part, and instead offered to find a new school for my child. The ban wasn't lifted until I appeared at a press conference with the Public Advocate Letitia James, in which Ms. James asked SUNY to investigate the abuse of special needs children.

Ms. Kim was supposed to be involved in mediation and conflict resolution when she reached out to me; however, her focus was not mediation but pushing my child out. 

She helped cover the tracks of the staff when they didn't provide proper documentation for my son's numerous illegal suspensions.  Instead of making sure Success Academy followed the law, she helped them break it.

In 2015 my son's records were released to the public after a PBS interview. She did nothing to remove his records from the Success website knowing that it was a direct violation of FERPA.  Instead, my son's record stayed on the website until we filed a FERPA complaint and I joined a complaint to the federal Office of Civil Rights in 2016.

Through that same course of time Emily was attending press conferences and making public statements on behalf of SA. 

Her public and private actions have shown time and time again that she does not care for the well-being of children or their education. Emily Kim does not deserve to run a school, where vulnerable children will be subjected to her abuse. 

Yours, Fatima Geidi


[8] See the class size and overcrowding data for District 6 here: https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/District-6-updated.pptx

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