Lake Forest Elementary Charter School violated state enrollment law and NOLA Public School district policy when it refused to allow a student to enter the building during the first week of classes last month, according to a warning letter issued by district officials last month. 

Lake Forest school officials turned away the third grade student during the first week of the new school year, allegedly because a school policy does not allow students with three or more suspensions to re-enroll, according to the three-page district warning letter.

But a district official wrote that such a policy violates both district policy, the charter’s contract with the district and state enrollment law. 

Lake Forest, along with every other NOLA Public Schools-authorized charter school, is required to participate in the district’s centralized enrollment and expulsion systems. The systems were designed to keep independent charter schools from selectively enrolling students. Lake Forest was one of the last charter schools to join when its contract was renewed in 2021. Prior to that, the charter school conducted its own enrollment. 

“Lake Forest is in violation of its Operating Agreement, in that Lake Forest is attempting to establish enrollment procedures outside of what is specifically identified in the Operating Agreement,”district Chief Portfolio Innovation and Accountability Officer Rafael Simmons wrote, referring to the charter’s agreement with the district. 

Lake Forest representatives, on the other hand, continued to cite their student handbook when asked for comment. Spokeswoman Cheron Brylski provided a statement which appears to stand by the school’s policy. 

“Lake Forest Charter School has been communicating with NOLA Public Schools regarding our student retention policies which have been in place since 2006,” it stated. “These policies are clearly explained in the parent/student handbook which our school community is required to sign and adhere to.”

Simmons said the school’s handbook “violates and contradicts OPSB’s enrollment policies and procedures.”

According to Simmons, the student was eventually allowed to attend school on Aug. 15, though school officials designated the student’s return as “provisional” enrollment. District officials ordered the school to remove any “provisional” status and confirm the student was fully enrolled. 

The school statement issued Wednesday said due to student privacy laws officials couldn’t comment further “other than to confirm that the individual is enrolled at Lake Forest.” Additionally, it stated the school “will work with our authorizer to address the matter appropriately.”

The school refused to answer questions about how often the three suspension policy has been used in prior years. 

The NOLA Public Schools district did not respond to a request for comment but the complaint was listed as “closed” during a Tuesday presentation district officials delivered to the Orleans Parish School Board. 

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...