Justice for the children of Atlanta

This article was written by PAA-Atlanta/GA/Atlanta Public Schools chapter leader Kimberly Brooks, whose children attended one of the schools where officials have been indicted for racketeering in connection with widespread standardized test cheating.

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My name is Kimberly Brooks, parent of two children that attended Parks Middle School in Atlanta, where the principal was recently indicted for cheating on state tests. For the past two years the Atlanta Public School system has gained the attention of the nation. The most that I can say is that it’s about time.

To be brief, I almost lost my son because of this school. When I complained, no one listened. I complained that they didn’t carry books. I complained about the harsh treatment of the children for small, minor offenses. I was in tears in some cases because my eldest daughter is the best a mother could ask for and I felt that sending her to school every day put her at risk of verbal abuse. I felt helpless.

I was full-time student and employed full-time. As a single mother of three, I needed the peace of mind that my children were safe. This staff preyed on the weak. Though I was a good mother and educated, their power were too strong and I was out numbered.

My child was assaulted by a teacher and I was not able to file a report because the police officer refused. I dialed 911 and all they did was refer me to the “resource officer” at the school. I went to the Board of Education and asked for a transfer and they said no. After speaking to the teacher that allegedly assaulted my child, he stated “I didn’t ask for this, Teach for America chose me. I am an ex-cop and the only man on this hall. These kids don’t have fathers and they need discipline. I will not change the way I deal with these kids.” After their investigation he was found not guilty of any offense.

Eventually, to keep me quiet, they just did what I asked. Some days I didn’t send my kids to school because they cried and were depressed. I informed them that if my child’s attendance was affected and that I would hold them accountable. They altered the attendance reports. My kids didn’t learn anything. They despised school. I felt bad for sending them there. I didn’t know what that place was. It was not a school. The kids didn’t learn anything. This school didn’t allow the students carry books, and they didn’t teach from them. They had no social contact within the classroom or throughout the school day. I observed this personally. After asking to shadow my child it took 45 minutes for them to release me from the office stating that I may be a threat and the children needed to be safe. Upon entering the class I observed no books. After the bell rang I observed a back door and a front door. The children in the class exited through the back door while the other students entered into the front door. They were closely monitored by the teachers. It was horrible. My son was suspended for walking too fast, playing with an apple and another minor offense. My daughter felt pressured because she was asked to testify against a student who was charged with making a terroristic threat to a teacher. The teacher refused another student‘s request to use the restroom until she started crying and got angry. The next day my daughter told me another student wasn’t allowed to use the restroom and went on herself. My son was bullied by the teachers and it was very hard for him. His record started to become worse after this school. It was the longest year of my life.

I complained to the Executive Director and the Board of Education. After a hearing, they refused the transfer. I have emails to prove it. I literally begged. My child was performing well because he had the opportunity to be among excellent educators in his elementary school. In an attempt to maintain that quality I personally researched every middle school to keep him engaged. I started with King Middle School because I knew the principal. I second guessed myself based on the Atlanta Publics Schools information about Parks. Though I heard it was a bad school, I fell in love with the teachers when I met them and didn’t believe it. But things were bad right away. I complained the first week and requested a transfer a month or so after. Sending my children to that school was one of the worst decisions I ever made.

I thank God for strength. A major contributor to balancing this was Warren Holyfield Boys and Girls Club. They went to the club every day after school and were able to relieve the stress incurred from the school. I will say this.

They may have indicted those few but it took much more than those few to accomplish the cheating scandal. Those indicted deserve this treatment. Educators work hard with the little they have. These few slander their reputation and create the illusion that public schools can’t perform. This isn’t true. No one should feel sorry for these individuals.

I remember transferring my kids the next year and thinking of all of the other kids I couldn’t help. They were just children, children in a low income area, attending a school in “the cut” behind the interstate, with no one to hear their voice when they cried. This is justice for them and for those teachers employed at those schools who didn’t quit and did their jobs.

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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