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Abramson to argue in court that BESE didn't follow its own rules in revoking charter

By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

Did the state make a rash decision when it recently revoked a New Orleans school’s charter?

That’s what will be argued in court Thursday as the embattled former managers of Abramson Science and Technology Charter School present their case against the state school board. Representatives from the Pelican Foundation, which held the charter, will appear before a 19th Circuit District Court judge in Baton Rouge to argue that the state’s investigation was not enough for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to base its decision on, and that Pelican wasn’t given due process – a chance to present its side – before the charter was revoked.

Pelican will argue that according to regulations governing revocation processes, BESE should have held a special revocation hearing before voting to take the charter, and that this proceeding should have happened before the Department of Education gave its recommendation to BESE.

However, the regulations also say that this rule does not apply in instances where BESE deems the health, safety, and welfare of students was at issue, which the Department of Education stated was the case in BESE’s specially called meeting last week.

Nonetheless, the court hearing will reveal new information because Pelican officials will get a full chance to explain what BESE never got to see, said King Logan of Logan Branding, a spokesman for Pelican.

“Our attorneys answered every allegation point by point with logical responses drawn on testimony from persons including many whom DOE did not interview,” he wrote in an email to The Lens. “We had three days to prepare these exhibits before BESE’s Aug. 3 meeting in Baton Rouge. None of the BESE members had seen this before the meeting; they nevertheless voted to revoke the charter.”

Among Pelican’s responses:

  • The state’s accusation that Pelican officials did not regularly supervise students does not take into consideration that Pelican fired the teacher who was involved in the sexual incident between two kindergarten students, Pelican argues.
  • Pelican says that the alleged sexual incident between a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader is disputed because while one student alleged to be involved claimed that the incident took place Feb. 19 in the morning, the other student alleged to be involved was accounted for that morning by his two teachers. Pelican also says that the parent of the first student never provided documentation from the student’s physician’s visit to prove sexual activity occurred, though the parent agreed to do so.
  • While the state lists an alleged bribery as part of the claims against Abramson, Pelican points out that state officials have yet to produce evidence of the event.

Pelican also said that some of the state’s claims were outright false, including the claim that school administrators failed to interview two staff members who had knowledge of the incidents, and the claims that the students involved in the incidents were never considered for special-needs evaluations.

BESE president Penny Dastugue said Tuesday that she could not respond to any of Pelican’s claims because of the lawsuit.

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