Group ac­cuses charter school of dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Su­laiman Ab­dur-Rah­man Su­laiman@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sab­durr on Twit­ter

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.”

Com­plaint break­down

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.”

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Prince­ton Charter School.

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