Gonzalez: Boy, 9, expelled from Harlem charter school after an ‘ambush’ disciplinary hea
Published: April 1, 2015 Publication: Daily News By Juan Gonzalez Third-grader Storm McCraw was expelled from Harlem Success Academy 2 on Friday, after a disciplinary hearing that resembled a kangaroo court. Prior to the boy’s ouster, administrators from the Success Charter Network had suspended the boy an astonishing 15 times this school year. Among the allegations against him: throwing chairs and books, kicking a principal in the leg, and biting an assistant principal. On Feb. 27, the school even called 911 and had an ambulance take him to Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency room. “An ambush” is how the 9-year-old’s mother, Tynetta Megginson, describes the hearing. Success officials, she claims, have been violating her son’s rights since he failed state reading and math tests last April, prompting them to retain him in third grade for another year. “It’s sink or swim at Success Academy,” Megginson said. “If you don’t get the lessons, you get ostracized.” She kept resisting pressure to transfer her son out, she said. The Success network of 32 charter schools, often touted for its high test scores, produces far higher student suspension rates than regular public schools. Network chief Eva Moskowitz has denied allegations her zero-tolerance policy pushes out low-achieving or special needs pupils. Prior to the boy’s ouster, administrators from the Success Charter Network had suspended the boy an astonishing 15 times this school year. “Storm needs immediate help,” Success 2 principal Lavinia MacKall said. “Unfortunately, our efforts to give him this help were hampered by Ms. Megginson’s refusal, despite our advice, to let us evaluate her son for special services or to meet with us informally to explore an alternative to this expulsion, the first in Success Academy’s history.” “They never recommended evaluation for special education,” Megginson insisted — not even after they dispatched him to Mount Sinai. Network spokeswoman Ann Powell acknowledged there is “no written correspondence” to the parent urging such an assessment. Megginson also claims the school never provided alternative education to her son — as mandated by state law — during any of his suspensions. “For every single suspension, we offer live instruction,” Powell said. “Ms. Megginson never brought Storm in for alternative instruction.” This isn’t the first time, though, the network’s policies on suspensions have been questioned. Network chief Eva Moskowitz (pictured) has denied allegations her zero-tolerance policy pushes out low-achieving or special needs pupils. A review of Success Academy 2 by the State University of New York in February 2013 noted: “alternative instruction for suspended students was not consistently presented to parents as mandatory. It was unclear that live instruction was consistently provided in accordance with New York’s compulsory education law.” Then there’s the matter of Friday’s expulsion process. Megginson sought and received two postponements of the hearing after she had trouble finding a lawyer. She sought a third postponement last week, but the network’s general counsel Emily Kim said she’d first have to attend an informal “resolution” meeting with Kim and Moskowitz. Megginson instead kept requesting a postponement of the expulsion hearing. So did the attorney she finally hired, Arthur Schwartz, who was unable to attend the Friday hearing. The school refused one more postponement. At the hearing, two Success attorneys represented the school. Megginson faced them and a handful of Success administrators by herself. She received a list of witnesses 24 hours beforehand, but was provided no written reports to prepare her son’s defense. The hearing officer, another Success Academy principal, found the boy guilty of all charges and ordered him expelled. So two weeks before this year’s state reading and math exams — Megginson was frantically trying to find a public school to accept her son.