Monthly Archives: October 2015

Study: Why Do Charter Teachers Burn Out So Quickly?

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From the Scholars Strategy Network, written by Alfred Chris Torres of Montclair State University. Edited for Journalist’s Resource.

 Replicating successful urban charter schools is a cause that gets plenty of attention — and money. No charter schools are more popular or polarizing than the “no excuses” variety that are often regarded as a successful and replicable school model. “No-excuses” charter schools are characterized by high expectations for students and staff, a college preparatory focus, longer school days and school years, data-driven instruction, and very strict behavioral expectations for students. However, even though a number of rigorous studies of “no-excuses” schools such as those focusing on the Knowledge is Power Program document promising academic results, supporters and critics alike question whether this model can spread because of the limited supply of teachers willing and able to work in such intensive environments. Indeed, many of these schools see up to one in every three or four teachers leave annually.

A New Exploratory Study

Why do so many teachers move on? Common explanations point to the intense workload, which can be as high as 60 to 80 hours per week. Others suggest that these school models often rely on Teach for America teachers who are likely to remain only for a short time. Such factors are important, but overlook more specific working conditions or school practices that influence teacher retention and commitment. To pinpoint such nuanced influences on career choices, my exploratory research uses data from in-depth interviews and survey responses from teachers working in a large charter management organization.

A general theme from my research is the importance of the disciplinary climate in “no-excuses” charter organizations. This climate affects teacher autonomy and, if the climate is dysfunctional, can further burnout in ways that prompt teachers to leave.

Especially in no-excuses charters, strict behavioral expectations mandate how students dress, enter a classroom, walk in the hall, or sit in class, and teachers are expected to enforce these expectations using explicit rewards and punishments, such as merits/demerits or adjustments in “paychecks” that allow students to purchase items from a school store. Supporters consider such close and intense monitoring of student behavior as helpful, while detractors believe that such strict expectations can be demeaning, and counterproductive to students’ overall development, no matter how much academic growth occurs.

As the debate rages, however, little attention has been paid to the impact of disciplinary practices on teachers and their career decisions. My research probes those effects, and my survey analysis reveals that overall teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of student disciplinary systems is an important predictor of rates of voluntary turnover. This is true even after other important factors are taken into account, such as teacher experience, workloads, and teachers’ perception of support from principals. Overall, I discovered that teacher perceptions of school disciplinary environments can affect their career choices in two important ways:

  • School-wide behavioral rules are considered critical to “no-excuses” schools, and teachers in some of these institutions have little input into the creation or adaptation of strict behavioral expectations, and enjoy little discretion to influence exactly how rules are applied. Experienced teachers, especially, can find such strict sets of rules frustrating because they undermine their professional autonomy. Or teachers may end up in conflict with school leaders on issues of how best to discipline or shape the behavioral socialization of students. When teachers feel such frustrations, as many explained in interviews, they may choose to leave.
  • Teacher burnout in “no-excuses” charters is often attributed to exhaustion from long working hours, but as psychologists understand, feelings of inefficacy can also lead to burnout. Some teachers I interviewed said they found it difficult to enforce detailed behavioral expectations throughout the day, leaving them feeling not very successful. For others, difficulties in enforcing school-wide rules and punishments led to increased student resistance and undermined student-teacher relationships. Since teachers value positive relationships with students, they may choose to leave if they feel good ties are undermined.

From Research to Practice

Many observers consider the disciplinary culture of “no-excuses” charter schools to be essential to their academic success, yet the disciplinary practices of these schools continue to arouse controversy. Reports of high suspension rates and questions about the lawfulness of disciplinary practices in “no excuses” schools in New York and New Orleans have only increased such concerns over disciplinary practices. Policymakers and charter leaders need to look at outcomes other than student academic scores when they consider the success of the “no excuses” model and ponder how readily it can or should spread.

My exploratory work adds to a growing body of mixed evidence on the success and broader viability of this approach to schooling. Although consistent, school-wide expectations are crucial, my findings about teacher burnout and turnover suggest that teachers and students should have more input into the creation and adaptation of rules about behavior. A more consultative and adaptive approach might reduce conflict, resistance, and teacher turnover. Recognizing the sorts of realities I have documented, some charter schools have started to experiment with alternative approaches to discipline. For example, the Knowledge is Power Program’s San Francisco schools have adopted a restorative justice approach to discipline, and other no-excuses schools are beginning to experiment with more positive approaches. These new developments may offer insights about how to combine academic rigor, clear behavior expectations, and a degree of flexibility. Ideally this will result in more successful, inclusive schools for teachers and students alike.

Related research: Read more in Alfred Chris Torres, “Is This Work Sustainable? Teacher Turnover and Perceptions of Workload in Charter Management Organizations.” Urban Education, September 2014.

The author is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network, where this post originally appeared.

Keywords: KIPP schools, charter schools, academic achievement, performance metrics, school choice, school-choice movement, public education, education innovation, student discipline

– See more at: http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/education/teacher-turnover-burnout-charter-schools#sthash.dtybcJV7.dpuf

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MSDE releases the teacher rating data for last school year.

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In addition to Maryland students’ performance score report, Maryland State Department of Education released the teacher rating data for last school year.

Here’s a link to the page with the data:

http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/programs/tpe/

If you add up the numbers in the datafile, (http://marylandpublicschools.org/tpe/TPESchoolTeacherDetailFile10232015.xlsx) you will see that only 155 or so teachers in PGCPS were rated Highly Effective, out of over 8000. This is a drop from 570 or so from last year according to PGCPS Teachers who have been following this.  (http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/programs/tpe/docs/TPE_Teacher_LEA_School_Detail_File.xlsx)

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PGCPS Principal Suspended After Teacher Spanking…

…Allegations at a Prestigious PGCPS School. WRC_0000000012430111_1200x675_554251843591

The principal at a prestigious Maryland school has been temporarily removed from his job after several parents claimed a teacher was spanking students.

The principal at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School in Greenbelt is accused of not taking action after he learned of the allegations.

Xander Faber said his daughter told him his son was spanked in front of their kindergarten class.

“He was struck by his teacher until he cried,” Faber said.

He said his daughter told him the teacher hit another boy even harder. The Fabers immediately filed a written report with the principal, Nassir Abi.

“There were kids who knew who the hitting teacher was in school,” Faber said. “Why is that even a thing?”

As the teacher continued teaching at the school, the Fabers questioned whether an investigation was conducted and asked for a copy of the written report. He said he was told he wasn’t entitled to it.

Faber told his story to the Prince George’s County School Board.

School officials initially said no wrongdoing was found, but now the principal has been temporarily removed while the allegations are further investigated — a year after they were first reported.

The accused teacher has moved to another district.

“We actually moved our children out of that school because we could not feel safe sending them there,” Faber said. “We felt betrayed by this, and you don’t give your children to people you don’t trust.”

Prince George’s County school officials said the removal of the principal does not mean he did anything wrong.

Abi could not be reached for comment Wednesday. via NBC 4

In the meantime, Clara Yancey  has been named New Acting Principal at Dora Kennedy French Immersion. PGCPS continues to have major problems within the school system as a result of non transparent recruitment of current CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell involved in cover up of various serious violations of law.

The following is a letter written to parents of children at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School dated October 27, 2015. Note that the letterhead reflects the former name of the school, Robert Goddard French Immersion. The school was officially renamed this year.

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The content of the letter is transcribed below:

October 27, 2015

Dear Members of the Dora Kennedy Community:

In recent days, some of you may have participated in discussions or viewed media reports surrounding allegations of student abuse at Dora Kennedy French Immersion. I’m writing to you today to share the steps we are taking to address this situation.

First, please know that PGCPS continues its full investigation into the alleged incidents. While I would like to provide you with the details of the exact steps we have taken, I am bound by the district’s confidentiality measures that are designed to protect both the families and the employees involved. If information becomes available that we can share, you have my committment that I will do so in a quick and transparent manner.

Second, effective immediately, Mrs. Clara Yancey will serve as acting principal of Dora Kennedy French Immersion. We feel it was best to make this change, so that we can be assured we are moving forward on a path that is guided by fairness, integrity, and transparency for everyone. Mrs. Clara Yancey is a retired principal from Prince George’s County Public Schools with a distinguished and proven record as an effective instructional leader. She is a seasoned administrator with decades of professional experience and extensive expertise across a full suite of academic disciplines. Please be assured that the academic environment will continue to thrive Mrs. Yancey’s leadership.

Dora Kennedy French Immersion school community is strong and impactful because of parents and guardians just like you. In the coming days, there may be some tough conversations and the potential for unwanted attention on our school. Like always, I know that we will forge ahead in a supportive and compassionate way that keeps student success at the center of our thinking.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me at 301-669-6060.

Sincerely,

Helen Coley, Ed.D

Area 2 Associate Superintendent

Read the full story here.

2014 Kevin MaxwellThe selection of CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell in a non transparent manner in what appears to be an effort to cover up wrong doing among the senior PGCPS staff, was not good for democracy and accountability initiatives in Prince George’s County. Instead of disciplining the staff involved in retaliation and discrimination, he has retained many and promoted some to the dismay of many pgcps staff and parents.    Read more

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“Abuse of power and impunity are as much a reality of leadership in the private sector as it is in the public sector.” ~#AWDLS
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“In a society that esteems opulence and exalts the big man, it is no surprise that the concept of leadership has been debased.”

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When Teachers Hit Children: One PGCPS Parent’s Experience

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Alana Cole-Faber, a parent with children in PGCPS, has shared her story here, with the hope that any other parents who have had similar experiences will come forward and work for positive change. You may contact Ms. Cole-Faber at pgparentscircle@gmail.com

by Alana Cole-Faber

In August of 2014, my children began school at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School (formerly Robert Goddard), one of PGCPS’s Specialty Schools. Having completed a successful year of preschool, our children were so excited to finally be attending “real school” with the big kids. We felt incredibly fortunate that we had won the lottery and that our children would have the privilege of attending a National Blue Ribbon school. We have moved a lot as a family, and as parents we were looking forward to settling down in Prince George’s County and getting to know our new community, the teachers, parents, and the school system in general. Instead, we have spent a large portion of the last year dealing with an appalling problem.

In October 2014, our children came home and told us that my son had been spanked at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School. We were stunned. We immediately separated and interviewed our children to find out what had happened and to be sure all of the details of their stories matched up. The children told us that my son had been jumping up and down while the class was singing, so the teacher asked the class to tell her which child had misbehaved and deserved to be punished. The majority of students pointed to my son, so he was called to the front of the class and struck until he cried. I asked my daughter if she thought our son had been hit hard, and my daughter said, “The teacher hit him hard, but she hits another boy even harder.”

My children then went on to name three other children who had been struck by their teacher during the year. (Corporal punishment is illegal in public schools in Maryland. Even so, it is worth noting that we had never received so much as a note home from this teacher to say that our son had misbehaved in class.)

The next morning, we went to the school to report the abuse. We spoke to a supervisory staff member at the school first. The supervisor listened to our story, then left to remove the teacher from the classroom and sent in a security officer to take our written statement. It was explained to us that any time there are allegations of abuse or harassment, a written report is sent to the county for investigation. It was also explained to us that this teacher would not be left alone with students during the investigation. We wrote a written report, including the names of the other children who had been struck. We also asked that our children be moved to other classrooms, just in case the teacher were allowed to return to the classroom following the investigation.

Though the supervisor was unable to locate the principal during the time we were on campus, the principal called later that evening and confirmed that the teacher had admitted to the spankings. The principal apologized and seemed to understand the seriousness of the issue. We concluded a very stressful day believing the school had the matter under control and would be taking action.

Fast forward to spring of 2015. Our daughter tells us that her former teacher, the one who hit our son, came into my daughter’s new classroom and threatened to “beat” the children in there. At least three other children also reported the threat to their parents. My daughter said there was no other adult present at the time, and we realized that this teacher was being left alone with students. Another parent told us that her daughter had witnessed spankings as recently as April of 2015. This child also said no other teacher was present in the classroom. Then another parent came forward. And then another. All of these parents told us they had tried to complain to the administration and had their concerns dismissed, with the administration referring to one parent as a “liar” and another as a “trouble maker.” One parent had complained two years before our children even entered the school.

When we began reaching out to other parents, we discovered that the school had not contacted any of the other parents whose children were named in our report as having been spanked. It was at this point that we realized something had gone wrong, and we contacted the CEO and our Board of Education representative to find out if they knew anything about the status of our case. It seemed unconscionable to us that the teacher would have been allowed to remain in the classroom, unsupervised, threatening and hitting students. Our case was then forwarded to PGCPS Security Services, and it was at that point that we learned that the principal had done nothing with our report of abuse. (Note that educators have a legal duty in Maryland to report suspected abuse.) Security Services interviewed us and assured us that an investigation would now be taking place into both the spanking and the school’s handling of our report. We have not heard anything from them since but have been told by the Department of Employee and Labor Relations that the investigation has been completed. We know from speaking to several parents that this investigation was concluded without interviewing all affected parties. We have also contacted Child Protective Services and PG County Police to no avail.

Though we know nothing about the outcome of this investigation, we have been informed by a PGCPS administrator of several important pieces of information: 1) The principal was unaware that educators/administrators are mandated reporters or that the report should have been passed on to the county. 2) The principal claims we asked him not to take any action against the teacher. 3) Other parents “paint a different picture” of what went on in the classroom, although when asked if that picture did not involve corporal punishment, the administrator refused to clarify. 4) Parents are not entitled to know the outcome of an investigation of abuse involving their own children.

These responses have raised numerous questions. First of all, why would PGCPS put a principal in place who has not been trained in regards to legal obligations, abuse prevention, and PGCPS protocol? As parents, we know that corporal punishment is not a part of the discipline plan published by PGCPS, we know that the law mandates that educators/administrators report any suspected abuse, and we also know that PGCPS administrative procedures require such incidents to be reported. The supervisor we spoke with at the school last October seemed to know exactly what should be done. How is it possible that the principal did not? What sort of training is the county providing for principals?

Secondly, the claim that we asked the principal to do nothing about our report is absurd. We would not have written a report if we did not want action to be taken. However, let us say for the sake of argument that we did say we did not want anything to happen to the teacher who struck our son. Why would a parent be permitted to dictate when a PGCPS principal follows the law? What other incidents have gone unreported, then, because someone asked the principal not to take action? How many more times was a child struck or emotionally abused during the course of the year because of the principal’s inaction?

Third, when the administrator told us that other parents had been contacted, we immediately got in touch with some of the parents whose children had witnessed spankings and threats. Somehow, PGCPS had failed to contact them. And those were only the parents we know personally. There are surely others out there that we do not know. If this is how PGCPS conducts investigations, then they are missing quite a lot of important information. Finally, it is appalling to me that, as parents, we have no right to any information regarding what happened in our children’s school and what the administration did to correct it.

Although the teacher in question left Dora Kennedy following graduation last June, she is still teaching young children in another public school district. The principal who failed to report the abuse is still in charge. Nothing has changed in terms of providing support for parents and children who have experienced abuse within the school. This year, we heard concerns from other parents regarding another teacher’s discipline methods, and we and a handful of other parents made the decision to remove our children from the school. While those of us who have managed to get our children out are relieved, we cannot help but worry about the children who are left behind. We know there are many good people at that school who care deeply about the children entrusted to their care; however, we remain extremely concerned about the oversight of this school and the lack of protection in place within PGCPS for children and families. Rather than finding support and help through the school system, we have had to fight our way through on our own, and the path to follow is unclear and frequently obstructed.

We believe public school can and should do better, and it is important to us to do everything we can to advocate for improvements that will make our school system better and more effective. We believe families whose children experience abuse within the school system need support. We aim to build an alliance of parents and citizens who will work with us to provide that support and help ensure that all reports of abuse within the school system are taken seriously so that our public schools can be safe havens of learning for our community’s children.

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Why Michigan lost shot at $45M for charter schools

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It also mirrors findings in a Free Press series — “State of Charter Schools,” published in June 2014 — that found Michigan spends $1 billion on charters, often with little accountability, transparency or oversight.

The Michigan Department of Education has received the multiyear federal grant six times altogether — and  twice  in the last decade: $23 million in 2007 and $44 million in 2010. But the criteria this year were more focused on oversight.

Three outside experts reviewed applications, awarding points in each of 11 criteria established by the federal agency. The MDE application was awarded just 17 of 45 possible points for oversight of public chartering agencies, and 21 out of 45 points for high-quality authorizing and monitoring.

“There are no uniform and high expectations of authorizers,” one reviewer said.

Reviewers also were concerned that the only oversight initiatives are voluntary, with one saying. “There is no guarantee that those who need it the most will be participants.”

“I don’t think this is a Department of Education problem. This is a policy maker’s problem,” Glazer said.

“We’re doing things that are hopefully leading to better outcomes,” he said.

Burkhart said Michigan’s law also clearly gives the state superintendent the ability to suspend an authorizer that isn’t providing proper oversight.

That provision of the charter law wasn’t tested until last year, however — after the Free Press series was published. MDE put 11 authorizers on notice that they were at risk of suspension; seven were later removed from the list and four remain on it.

Burkhart’s organization has pushed for a voluntary accreditation system — one it wants to have become part of state law. AdvancED, an agency that accredits K-12 schools and districts nationwide, conducts the reviews. So far, Grand Valley State University has gone through the process and received accreditation. Central Michigan is currently undergoing it. The two universities are the largest authorizers of charters in Michigan.

The reviews looks at criteria such as whether an authorizer is ensuring its schools are audited annually by a certified public accountant, whether it is ensuring schools are posting transparency documents, and whether it’s ensuring schools that perform in the bottom 5% academically for multiple years are either being closed or restructured.

“My vision is that all authorizers would be able to have to prove that they are somehow fit to be part of the profession of authorizing,” Burkhart said.

‘Ghost’ schools

The federal grant allows the state to disseminate small grants for planning and implementation of new charters. They start at $100,000 for initial planning and can increase if a school receives a charter, said Tammy Hatfield, manager of the public school academies unit at MDE. Michigan charters are referred to as public school academies in state law.

Not all of those schools end up opening, a fact that was criticized in a report released this week by the Wisconsin-based progressive group Center for Media and Democracy. The report highlighted 25 charter school grants issued in 2011 and 2012 in Michigan for schools that never opened.

“These ‘ghost schools’ exist only on paper,” the group said.

But Hatfield said that’s part of the process: A large part of the planning grants, for instance, is exploring the idea of opening a charter and determining whether it’s feasible. Some don’t open because they can’t find an authorizer. And in some cases, the developers decide on their own not to pursue the charter.

Those grants can be crucial for some. And without a new round of funding, “they’ll have to look toward other sources,” Hatfield said.

Burkhart said it will mean authorizers will have to step up by providing more assistance to those trying to start charters.

Low state scores

Michigan’s charter law allows school districts, community colleges and universities to authorize charter schools, but the MDE has limited oversight of them. Hatfield said a more detailed analysis of the review comments will be done to look at how other states that received or lost out in the grant competition were rated.

The changes in the criteria clearly had an impact.

“This year’s selection criteria focused on supporting the creation of high-quality charter schools, strengthening public accountability and oversight of authorized public chartering agencies, and supporting and improving academic outcomes for educationally disadvantaged students,” said Dorie Nolt, press secretary for the federal education department.

The reviewers weren’t just critical of the lack of authorizer oversight. They also scored the state low for the academic performance of charters, awarding 15 out of 30 points in that area. One of the reviewers said the percentage of charters ranked in the bottom 5% of schools in the state “is unreasonably high.” Another questioned why, after two decades of charters, “student outcomes are still just ‘comparable’ to traditional public schools.”

The state also was scored low in identifying what’s working in charters and making that information available to schools statewide.

Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651, lhiggins@freepress.com or @LoriAHiggins.

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Maryland Test Scores Drop on Nation’s Report Card

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Maryland students’ performance dropped in math and reading at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels on standardized tests known as the Nation’s Report Card, according to results released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Maryland State Department of Education noted that scores released remain above the national average in most areas, though Maryland dipped just below the national average in fourth-grade math. Maryland included a larger percentage of students with disabilities and English language learners in its results than in previous years.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who entered office in January, said the exclusions of such students under his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, produced misleading results.

“By misleading the public and purposefully excluding students who would lower scores, a false sense of security was created and a major disservice was done to the state and most importantly to our parents and students,” Hogan said in a statement. “These scores reflect a level of transparency not seen in a long time and are a wake-up call for Maryland. It is time we had an open, honest discussion about education policy in our state and begin to close the achievement gaps.”

Haley Morris, a spokeswoman for O’Malley’s presidential campaign, said the former governor made education a priority and increased funding during his eight-year tenure, when graduation rates went up and pre-kindergarten was expanded.

The state education department said it has worked closely with the National Assessment of Educational Progress and local school systems to decrease exclusions. In 2013, Maryland excluded 12.6 percent of students in fourth-grade reading. Last year, the exclusion rate was dropped to 3.6 percent. The exclusion rate for eighth grade dropped from 9.2 percent to 4.8 percent.

The test examines a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students on reading and mathematics every two years. It is a congressionally authorized project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education through the National Center for Education Statistics. Students are tested on standards that differ in both content and sequencing from those assessed by Maryland’s state tests.

A look at the results:

FOURTH-GRADE READING: Maryland’s average score fell from 232 in 2013 to 223 in 2015. The national average is 221. The 2015 score in Maryland is 10 points higher than in 1992.

EIGHTH-GRADE READING: Scores fell from 274 in 2013 to 268 in 2015. The national average is 264. The 2015 score in Maryland is six points higher than in 1998.

FOURTH-GRADE MATH: The average score in Maryland dropped from 245 in 2013 to 239 in 2015. The national average is 240. Maryland scores are 17 points ahead of where they were in 2000.

EIGHTH-GRADE MATH: Maryland’s score went down from 287 in 2013 to 283 in 2015. The national average is 281. Maryland scores remain five points ahead of where they were in 2003.

Student’s family sues PGCPS system claiming illegal search

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The family of a Prince George’s County high school student has filed a lawsuit alleging campus security illegally searched the teenage boy after a classmate reported her cellphone missing.

Devonte Woods, 15, a student at Central High School in Capitol Heights, alleges that campus security searched him and about 20 other students in a classroom to look for the phone on the morning of Oct. 1.

Campus security “explained that a student in her class got her phone stolen and the class had 30 seconds to come up with the stolen phone,” according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday. “No one in the class had the phone. So, after 30 seconds, the three male security officers began to search every student’s binder and school bag.”

Tracking down a student’s missing phone — which turned out to have been left at home, according to the suit — is not a good reason to invade students’ privacy, said Jimmy Bell, an attorney representing Woods’s family.

Bell said the search not only violated school-system policies but it was also illegal because there was no “reasonable suspicion” the teen had the phone.

“Security guards are only supposed to search students when there is a danger,” Bell said. “This is a cellphone, and they treated my client like a criminal.”

Prince George’s schools officials declined to comment on the allegations, citing the pending litigation.

Bell said security staff searched Woods’s binder and person — similar to searches on other students in the class — and found nothing.

Woods’s parents visited campus administrators after the incident to confront them about the search, Bell said. Officials told Woods’s parents that the school changed policies to ban searches­ of students for cellphones, which aren’t allowed on campus, and to require administrators be present during searches­ deemed appropriate, the lawsuit stated.

But Bell said school officials should have adhered to those rules from the start.

 “That’s like kicking in the door of someone’s house and then saying, ‘Oh, we made a mistake,’ ” he said.
>>> Read the full story here.

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