Camelot Education, a for-profit manager of alternative schools, is facing challenges nationwide after our report on alleged physical abuse of students by staffers.
This story was co-published with Slate.
Officials in three cities are rethinking their relationship with for-profit Camelot Education, which runs alternative programs for more than 3,000 students with emotional, behavioral or academic difficulties.
In Philadelphia, a councilwoman is seeking more information about the city’s alternative schools, including their disciplinary practices, in the wake of a report on alleged physical abuse of students by Camelot staff members. Camelot has a contract with the Philadelphia school district for almost $10 million a year to run four schools. Alternative schools typically take in students who have left regular high schools after violating disciplinary codes or falling behind academically.
“There is almost zero public data about these schools,” Helen Gym, the councilwoman, said in a recent interview. “These are very vulnerable young people who end up in these programs where a lot of information about them drops off the books.”
In addition, Teach For America’s Philadelphia branch said it will no longer place teachers in Camelot schools. While the decision to end the partnership after this school year is not related to abuse allegations, “we take allegations of this kind very seriously,” the organization said. Tremaine Johnson, a former executive director of Teach For America in Philadelphia, expressed concern in an interview about what he called Camelot’s “incarceration type of environment.”
Camelot also suffered a setback in Houston, where it manages one school under an $8.6 million contract. On March 9, a day after ProPublica and Slate published the report on Camelot, the Houston school board voted unanimously to end the contract with the company and bring management of its alternative school operations in-house. It’s unclear if the decision was related to the article.
And in Columbus, Georgia, the school board Monday night delayed a vote on hiring Camelot to take over alternative education programs in Muscogee County School District. It decided to hold two public forums first so that residents can learn about and respond to the proposal.
After reading the report on Camelot, Muscogee board member Cathy Williams said in an interview, she wanted time to conduct her own research on the company. “Whenever you seek out private service providers for highly specialized services, track record matters a lot,” she said. The article “probably did provoke some qualifying questions from myself.”
More than a dozen Camelot students have alleged in interviews or documents that they were shoved, beaten, or thrown — assaults almost always referred to as “slamming” — by Camelot staff members, in separate incidents that span 10 years and three states. Two other students, and five Camelot staff members, said they had personally witnessed beatings or physical aggression by staff. The abuse allegedly occurred in Camelot programs in Philadelphia and two other Pennsylvania cities, Reading and Lancaster, as well as in Pensacola, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana. For the most part, staffers who allegedly assaulted students have faced no criminal charges or internal discipline; some have even been promoted.
In one case, a Pensacola family alleged a month ago that a Camelot staffer knocked a 13-year-old to the ground, causing a bloody abrasion near the student’s eye. Both Camelot Camelot Under Siege - ProPublica: