The Excellence Boys Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn was defending itself Tuesday against parent complaints that its new, “Scoreboard Behavioral System” was discriminatory and treating disciplined students like prisoners.
“We have a college prep school and everything we do here is about getting students ready for college,” said Head of School, Samantha Tweedy, on Tuesday. “The discipline is helping students get back on track and focus on learning.”
A father of two sons who attend the Middle Academy, grades 5 through 8, contacted PIX 11 about a memo sent out by the school in early January. The memo explained the Middle Academy would allow students to earn—or lose—achievement points, based on their behavior. Starting each school week with 50 points, any student left with 0 or less points by week’s end would be subject to five days of detention–and designated “Out of the Brotherhood”. This means they would be placed in a separate room for breakfast and lunch—and ordered to wear a light green Polo shirt, instead of the blue Oxford shirt boys in the Middle Academy typically wear as part of their uniform. Other scholars, as the school refers to students, would not be able to interact with the disciplined boys.
“It’s offensive,” said ‘Jason Vincent’ (not his real name), who e-mailed PIX 11 about the practice, “because, first of all, they’re all young, black men, and I don’t feel that I should have to be concerned with a school seeming like a prison. That’s not what I send my children to school for.” Vincent told us his sons are honor students but were already designated “Out of the Brotherhood” for one of the weeks in January.
After complaints about the name, the school changed it to “In School Reflection.”
One of the mothers who’s upset about the new system did allow herself to be identified. Chanon Judson-Johnson has a son in 5th grade.
The Excellence Boys Charter School boasts on its website that its 540 students score higher than most pupils in the city and state in Assessment Testing for math and reading. The school day starts at 7:30 am and doesn’t end until at least 4 pm.
Two mothers who called PIX 11 after we visited the school wanted to voice their support for the new system.
Karen Austin has one son in the 8th grade. “It seems to be working excellently with my child,” Austin said. “Before, he used to be in detention quite a bit. With this, he hasn’t been in detention at all. This is a new baby. We have to give it a try.”
Austin pointed out to PIX 11 that her son has been with the charter school since it opened nine years ago. “The teachers are really working hard to raise a different kind of boy in our community,” she said.
Another mother, Selma Smothers, has a son who’s now in 6th grade. She likes the system, too. “It teaches children there are consequences to your actions,” Smothers said. “You also have the chance to gain points back,” she noted.
But Henry Butler, director of Community Board 3 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, doesn’t like the policy. “If the end result is making a child feel like an outcast, that I don’t agree with,” Butler said. “Making that child an outcast could make that boy withdraw from the other students.”
Chanon Judson-Johnson told PIX 11 she’s now thinking of removing her son from the school.
But Head of School, Samantha Tweedy, said to PIX the program is moving in the right direction, and tweaks are being made along the way.
“The lion’s share of those adjustments have been incredibly well received by the school community,” she said. “What we’re doing here is about getting our kids to college.”