Teens Say This For-Profit Alternative School ‘Feels More Like Prison’

Diversity and Equity

Teens Say This For-Profit Alternative School ‘Feels More Like Prison’

Mar 24, 2017

VIOLENCE, POVERTY AND VERBAL ABUSE: Alternative education for troubled teens is one of the dark parts of the school systems that does not get much coverage. In a report published by Slate earlier this month titled, “This Company Calls its Schools ‘Alternative’ Some Students Say They Are More Like Prison,” Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, Zoë Kirsch, and Stephen Smiley (of Columbia University’s The Teacher Project) expose allegations of physical and verbal abuse that have followed for-profit alternative education providers for years.

Camelot Education, the for-profit alternative school service provider for the Reading School District in Pennsylvania, is depicted in the report as, “racially biased, isolated, punitive, unnecessarily violent, and designed, above all else, to maintain obedience and control.” Students were occasionally subject to violence for violating the company’s or instructor’s stringent rules, which included things like: “no jewelry, book bags, or using the water fountain or bathroom without permission.” Ismael Seals, who worked for Camelot as a behavioral specialist (and was sentenced to prison for lying about his instructional practices) was documented telling students to, “Shut the f*** up.” He reportedly warned students that the next one to talk would get body slammed through the door—and according to the report—he followed through on his threat by beating up a 17-year-old.

Stats in the report disclose that 23 percent of Camelot students are homeless, and 45 percent said they experienced violence in their previous schools that affected them academically. Descriptions of student treatment in the story ring eerily reminiscent of activist complaints surrounding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

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