DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), DC’s charter authorizer, has contacted the two charter schools named by the U.S. Department of Education as – according to the Associated Press – being investigated over possible barriers to enrollment by students brought to the United States illegally.
“Our school has never discriminated against students based on immigrant status,” said Karen Dresden, executive director of Capital City PCS, which serves students in grades PK-12.
Dresden said that Capital City Public Charter School serves one of the highest populations of immigrant students and English Language Learners in the District and has never denied admission to a student based on immigrant status. “There has never been any complaint or any findings made against Capital City for denying enrollment to students based on immigrant status, and the [Associated Press] story falsely claims Capital City is under investigation for enrollment discrimination.”
Sean Aiken, Head of School at BASIS DC, the other DC public charter school named on the list, said that it has not been involved in any OCR complaint with regards to enrollment or admissions. The school has students in grades 5-9 and is located in downtown Washington.
According to a statement, BASIS DC does not discriminate against students who want to enroll. “No such allegation has ever been made against BASIS DC and the school is not currently under investigation by the Department of Education. The Department of Education has never issued a finding against BASIS DC that the school has denied students enrollment based on immigration status or national origin.”
In its role as DC’s sole charter authorizer, PCSB has a strong record of ensuring equity and access across DC charter schools. Specifically, the Board has implemented several processes and programs to prohibit discrimination such as Mystery Shopper calls to schools, in which callers posing as parents of special needs children ask about enrolling their child, to see if they encounter any barriers.
Additionally, PCSB published data in December 2013, along with the DC Public Schools and Office of the State Superintendent of Education, about attendance and discipline trends in charter schools, which resulted in schools changing their policies and expulsions numbers dropped by half.
“PCSB’s oversight works to ensure that charter schools are open to all students,” said Scott Pearson, Executive Director.
Capital City PCS and BASIS DC were named on a list of 17 schools released by the Department of Education.
Based on discussions with the Department of Education, PCSB believes that Capital City PCS and BASIS DC were listed erroneously.
While each public charter school operates as its own local education agency (LEA), many charters this year joined a common lottery, My School DC, which has a common application and enrollment form, which can help eliminate any potential barriers to enrollment.
The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice recently issued joint guidance nationwide around student enrollment practices, including a letter and a questions and answers for states, school districts and parents.