KIPP Renaissance students return after protest over security canceled 2 days

Students will return to KIPP Renaissance High School on Monday after security concerns led to an unexpected two-day shutdown immediately before Mardi Gras break.

On Feb. 11, 450 ninth- through 12-grade students were sent home after some Renaissance students refused to cooperate with a new school security policy, KIPP spokesman Jonathan Bertsch said.  Some students objected to the procedures that included metal detectors, bag searches and requests from security guards to pull clothing or waistbands away from their body.

“It was a situation where there were a number of students that were not entering the school,” Bertsch said. “I think having students that are out and not following the procedures created an unsafe situation.”

Bertsch said the administration decided to dismiss school early that day and cancel all together on Thursday, the last scheduled day before Mardi Gras break. Despite the ‘unsafe situation’ the New Orleans Police Department was not called.

The school, housed in the former Sarah T. Reed High School in eastern New Orleans, did open for parents and students to come in and discuss the situation and new policy.

The extent of the new procedures aren’t clear.

A letter went home with students on a Friday, Feb. 6, explaining there would be changes to the entrance policy for the high school beginning the following Monday. The one-page letter said anyone entering the school would be subject to metal detection and bag searches.

Asked recently, KIPP officials could not provide a copy of the new policy. They did provide a copy of the cell phone policy distributed at the beginning of the school year, which requires all cell phones be turned in at the beginning of each day.

The letter to parents also stated that the new entrance policy would help with cell phone collection because any “contraband” found in bags would be confiscated.

Bertsch said the change was spurred by requests from parents: “Throughout the last several months we’ve had requests from families, from parents that we implement a different sort of school entry procedure.”

“Ninety-six percent of families that we spoke to were in favor of the new policy,” Bertsch said.

Bertsch said security personnel and KIPP staff members performed the searches during the beginning of last week.

“In some cases, a student may be asked to pull clothing away from their body perpendicularly which would cause a banned item to fall if it were concealed behind a belt, for example,” Bertsch said. “In no cases are students asked to lift clothing to allow for a visual inspection.”

Monday will begin with an hour-long session for students to discuss what happened and why the new policy has been implemented, Bertsch said.

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • HalfFullClass

    Direct quote:
    “Ninety-six percent of families that we spoke to were in favor of the new policy,” Bertsch said.

    That means that out of 25 contacts, 24 families supported the new policy.
    Who can argue with such numbers? Who came up with the numbers or are they just a rough estimate?
    Perhaps KIPP ReigningSauce got some statistical assistance from the folks at The Cowan Institute.
    We all know CI can work some magic with numbers.
    The good news if Bertsch’s numbers are correct is the KIPP ReigningSauce administration will only have to counsel-out one out of twenty-five “scholars”. Within acceptable limits?

    Thank goodness The Lens has Marta J still keeping us informed. We miss those charter board meeting reports but apprectaie what we still have.

    The T-P/NOLA krewe are spineless and are totally up the ASP (Nickie’s slimy pet snake) of reformers and purveyors of misinformation. When you see that a report in comes from The Hechinger’s Report you can be sure it is one sided and without balance.

    Who needs balance? Put enough “spin” on anything and it stays upright for many revolutions.
    Sort of like a Charter License. The average charter gets 2-4 revolutions of failure and spin before another CMO will gladly step in and begin their own experiment on the lab rats they call “scholars”

    Thanks Lens and Marta

  • M. BButler

    Pulling their clothing away from their waistbands…sounds like molestation.
    What evidence can they present for the over-policing of the students?
    Does any of this happen in predominantly white schools?

  • nickelndime

    I am appalled, and so is my ASP (that’s my pet snake ASP). This is well over the acceptable limit of monitoring and school security procedures. When the RSD and the “flim-flam man,” Dana Peterson, recently cut the backroom deal and gave “away” the Sarah T. Reed building to the Einstein CMO (charter operator) over the more experienced (running a high school) and stronger charter operator (Collegiate Academies – Ben Marcovitz), somebody should have “investigated” that sham. Peterson refused media (THE LENS) admittance into the presentations. Now the RSD has done the same thing to the Broadmoor Association (revoked the Wilson charter) and “cut another deal” with Ben Kleban and New Orleans College Prep. Somebody should have investigated that too. The parental letters are posted on And why all the doubling up on security at KIPP Renaissance? The RSD was touting the 0 (zero) rate of expulsions for the prior school year at the school. What exactly is going on with the RSD numbers? It is no wonder that more individuals are questioning the “numbers” that are being fed to the public by the RSD public relations department and nonprofits like the Cowen Institute. And just so everybody knows, ASP is not slimey (although he may appear so) and neither are any of his relatives. Makes me want to show up at KIPP Renaissance with my ASP and a bookbag! LMAspO! 02/21/2015 1:30 PM

  • Karran Royal

    Looks like KIPP Renaissance H.S. has a new strategy to lower it’s ridiculously high suspension rate. If parents don’t like it, they can vote with their feet. After all, former New Schools for New Orleans Director Neerav Kingsland says you can switch schools tomorrow. Why don’t you try that. Oh but it’s not so easy as Neerav says, you actually have to apply for a hardship transfer. That can take weeks to get approved. If your hardship transfer isn’t approved, then maybe you should vote with your feet in the OneAPP before the application period closes. Is this really school choice? We take away your neighborhood schools, force you to choose from an array of poorly performing schools, or prison like schools in the One APP, then convince you that you have school choice.

  • nickelndime

    Well, Karran Harper Royal, where have you been? Jesus H. Holy Christ! This whole RSD thing is a sham, and has been from the get-go. I don’t blame KIPP. The Texas “2 boys” were ushered in by Leslie Jacobs and her sidekick, Paul Pastorek. Get yo’ nonprofit together! When you get something together, then tell the rest of us what is wrong, security wise, at KIPP Renaissance. 02/21/2015 10:18 PM

  • nickelndime

    Karran, Kingsland is gone. He “left the building.” In the meantime, Sarah Usdin (founder of New Schools for New Orleans) and sitting OPSB member still has her shot at dismantling local control. Of course that requires a dim-witted 4th pivotal vote, but she hasn’t had any trouble getting that, so far. Has she? 02/21/2015 10:30 PM

  • nickelndime editorial piece (02/19), welcomes improvement in RSD expulsion numbers. Oops! Used the Sarah T. Reed High School building for the photo caption (none – zero – nada – … expulsions for 2013-14). Of course there are “those” other problems out thar in the East (which the OPSB-authorized Einstein CMO will inherit because of the dollar$).

    “The irony of this editorial piece is that the photo is the Sarah T. Reed High School building (at which KIPP Renaissance is housed). There may have been no expulsions for the 2013-14 school year, but two days before the official Mardi Gras holiday began for their students, ‘yo boy in charge’ (administrator #1) decided he had to close the school ahead of time because a group of students were protesting outside (they refused to enter the building) because of new, enhanced security procedures that involved metal detectors and ‘bookbags,’ among other things. Now that’s what I call real irony. You can’t set that kind of stuff up.” 02/22/2015 12:49/1:01 PM