Group accuses charter school of discrimination
PRINCETON >> Princeton Charter School has come under fire by a Latino organization that accuses the academic institution of adopting segregationist policies that allegedly discriminate against potential students on the basis of race and income.
The nonprofit Latino Coalition of New Jersey on Thursday drafted a federal civil rights complaint urging the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to conduct an investigation into the alleged “discriminatory impact of the Princeton Charter School’s enrollment policies.”
The Latino group also wrote a separate letter to the New Jersey Department of Education not only urging the state to reject Princeton Charter School’s recent proposal to expand its enrollment by 76 students, but also demanding the state to shutter the school because of its alleged “pattern of segregation spanning a decade.”
Frank Argote-Freyre, director of the Freeholdbased Latino Coalition of NJ, wrote the letter dated Thursday to New Jersey’s Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington and in the letter informed her of the coalition’s federal civil rights complaint against Princeton Charter.
Princeton Charter School on Thursday issued a response defending its enrollment practices and accusing the coalition of disseminating “unsubstantiated allegations.”
The Latino Coalition analyzed and compared demographic data of Princeton Public Schools district students with Princeton Charter School students to support its allegation that the charter school is segregated by race.
The organization cited 2015-16 student enrollment figures indicating Hispanics made up 13 percent of Princeton Public Schools’ student population but only 3 percent of the charter school’s student body.
The Latino Coalition also included data graphs in its complaint to further accuse Princeton Charter of practicing discrimination and allegedly doing “a particularly poor job of admitting Limited English Proficient students.”
“Our organization has filed evidence with the state opposing the expansion as it will not in any way address the Princeton Charter School’s persistent and illegal segregation by income, English proficiency, special education status, race and ethnicity,” the complaint alleges. “We further asked the state to close the Princeton Charter School because of a pattern of segregation spanning a decade.”
Larry Patton, head of Princeton Charter School, on Thursday blasted the coalition for launching what he called “unsubstantiated allegations” and “frivolous claims,” saying the Princeton Charter School community is “exceptionally proud of our diverse student population and the outstanding academic outcomes our school achieves.”
Patton also did his homework to discover that the Latino Coalition of NJ has recently filed complaints against other charter schools in the Garden State.
“Unfortunately, this is exactly the same baseless complaint this same organization has filed against other charter schools in Monmouth and Middlesex counties in recent weeks,” he said Thursday in an emailed statement. “The pattern is obvious — the organization identifies a highperforming charter school with a pending expansion request with the New Jersey Department of Education and in the days before a decision is rendered, puts out a press release alleging civil rights violations. This tactic is clearly designed to improperly influence the Department’s decision on the school’s expansion request while defaming the
school and its families in the process.”
Also known by the acronym PCS, Princeton Charter School opened in September 1997 and now features two separate classroom buildings, one for grades K-4 and one for grades 5-8, and the recently opened Campus Center building. The Princeton Public Schools district Superintendent Stephen Cochrane on Dec. 1, 2016, wrote a letter opposing the charter school’s proposed student enrollment expansion plan. The Latino Coalition has made clear it also opposes the proposed expansion.
“It is telling that this Monmouth-based organization never met with Princeton Charter to learn the full story and our efforts,” Patton said. “It simply parroted the district’s allegations and sent them to newspapers. That’s no way to create more educational opportunities for the children they claim to represent. We invite dialogue with those looking to work productively to solve problems rather than generating headlines.”
According to nonprofit records compiled by GuideStar, the Latino Coalition of New Jersey Foundation is a nonprofit corporation established in 2009 with a membership composed of organizations and individuals from Monmouth and Ocean counties. The group is affiliated with the statewide Latino Action Network and is dedicated to the protection of constitutional rights and the fair treatment of Latinos.
“To be clear, PCS enrolls its students through an open lottery system in full compliance with Department of Education regulations,” Patton said. “We are exceptionally proud of our diverse student population and the outstanding academic outcomes our school achieves. We categorically deny all of these unsubstantiated allegations and look forward to defending our school, and our families, against every single one of these frivolous claims.”
Princeton Charter School.