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Gary Rubinstein: Another Sex Scandal at KIPP

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Gary Rubenstein has written about the failed promises of charter schools many times. In this post, he reports on the latest sex scandal at KIPP. Maybe there’s something about the power dynamics of a “no excuses” school that encourages adult domination of children in their care.

He writes:

Today the US Attorney’s office for the southern district tweeted this [Open the link to see the tweet!].

The description of the charges gets pretty graphic so I will not quote it all here, but part of it says:

From at least in or about 2002 through at least in or about 2007, CONCEPCION singled out the Minor Victims for personal attention. He gave them money, clothing, jewelry, and other gifts, and he provided them with alcohol. He told several of the Minor Victims that they were in romantic relationships with him and provided each of the Minor Victims with a cellphone so that they could communicate with him without their parents’ knowledge. CONCEPCION used the cellphones he provided and other devices to maintain his “relationships” with the Minor Victims and to arrange sexual encounters.

The press release does not identify the school, but I recognized the name of this teacher since he was featured in the chapter about KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) in the 2008 book published by The Thomas B. Fordham Institute called ‘Sweating The Small Stuff — Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism’ (you can get it on Amazon for $0.99 or you can get the full pdf for free here.) It’s basically a book that glorifies the abusive practices of ‘no-excuses’ schools because they get good standardized test results. The Fordham Institute is one of these think tanks that basically creates ed reform propaganda but makes it look like actual research. Their president Michael Petrilli is a nice enough guy, we have had some friendly exchanges, but he knows absolutely nothing about education. I would feel bad for him if he weren’t making so much money.

In the chapter of ‘Sweating The Small Stuff’ entitled ‘”KIPP-Notizing” through music’ there is this passage that has not aged well:

In two days, the orchestra will give its commencement concert in this auditorium in the South Bronx to honor the eighth-grade graduates of KIPP Academy, housed in a wing on the fourth floor of Lou Gehrig Junior High. But rehearsal in the stifling auditorium is going poorly. Jesus Concepcion, the dapper conductor and benevolent baton-wielding despot on the podium, is not pleased.


“Sit down!” Concepcion tells a seventh grader playing string bass at the back of the orchestra. The bass player had refused to help a fellow cello player pick up his music when it slid off his music stand, kicking the sheet music back to the student instead. “You want to be nasty?” Concepcion asks rhetorically. “I’ll teach you nasty. You don’t deserve to play! You let down your teammates. And that music you kicked, I arranged. Get off the stage!” After the student glumly exits the stage, orchestra members keep their eyes glued to Concepcion during a soaring version of “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway show Rent. But as at many rehearsals of the string and rhythm orchestra, the cycle of disruption and discipline continues. A few minutes later, the graduating eighth graders start chatting animatedly in the hallway as they practice lining up.

“Unbelievable!” Concepcion exclaims. Mitch Brenner, KIPP Academy’s Director of Institutional Solutions and enforcer of all things KIPP, hops up to straighten out the excited eighth graders. “Not a word!” Brenner calls out. “Do not speak! You are our graduates. Do not open your mouth!”

KIPP has had to do a lot of apologizing and self-reflecting over the past few years. First there were the sexual abuse allegations that caused them to fire co-founder Michael Feinberg. Even though Feinberg’s accuser was not able to definitively prove her case in court, he was far from exonerated and has pretty much been shunned by most of the education reform community. Then, about a year ago, the other co-founder Dave Levin wrote an apologyto the KIPP alumni about some of the racist practices that KIPP has employed over the years, things that charter critics have been accusing them of over the years, but KIPP never cared then because they felt it was helping them get the statics they needed to get the donations they needed.

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