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Success Academy “Got to Go” List: Federal Lawsuit to Move Forward

August 7, 2018

In October 2015, New York Times reporter, Kate Taylor broke the story of the “Got to Go” list created by Success Academy Fort Greene principal, Candido Brown. The list– entitled “Got to Go”– included the names of 16 students that Brown wanted out of his school, which served grades K-3 at the time (grade 4 was added later).

candido brown crying

Candido Brown, after “Got to Go” list exposed

Cut to 2018:

On August 01, 2018, US District Judge Frederick Block allowed a federal lawsuit against Success Academy charter schools (New York) to proceed on the basis of discrimination against children with disabilities, intent to retaliate, and “bad faith or gross misjudgment.”

Parents of five of the “Got to Go” list students are named as plaintiffs in the federal suit on behalf of the five children.

The children were only four and five years of age at the time that they attended Success Academy Fort Greene.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz dismissed the issue, as Taylor reports:

…After this article was published online, Eva S. Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman who runs Success Academy, was asked by reporters about the “Got to Go” list. Ms. Moskowitz said that given her network’s size, “mistakes are sometimes made.” She declined to answer further questions, saying she would hold a news conference on Friday to discuss “the mistake that was made in that particular case.”

In January 2016, Brown left Success Academy Fort Greene, but he did not leave the charter chain altogether; he was reassigned to another Success Academy school as a teacher.

Judge Block’s decision includes background on the micromanagement of student behavior at the Success Academy school as well as information on each of the five students; I briefly offer info on three of the five students in the excerpt below:

Success Academy is a system of charter schools in New York City that receives funding and other benefits from the federal, state, and city governments. It chooses its students via lottery. Success Academy Fort Greene is a school in the Success Academy system. Brown began as principal of Success Academy Fort Greene in October 2014.

Success Academy runs a strict disciplinary system known as the “Code of Conduct.” Its zero-tolerance approach prohibits, among other things, failing to sit in the “Magic 5” sitting position and requires the students to always be on task, stay engaged in learning, and comply with the dress code. Teachers use stopwatches to script the school day, and students must carry “air bubbles” in their mouths when walking from class to class so they do not speak to one another.

Behavior infractions are tracked with a green-yellow-red system. If a student violates the Code of Conduct, he is moved from green to yellow. A second violation moves the student from yellow to red. At this point, the student will be put in “cool down,” often be moved to a different classroom, and receive zero credit for missed assignments. If moving the student does not work, the student is dismissed from school for the day. This requires the parent to leave work and pick up the student immediately; failure to do so results in formal suspension of the student and sometimes threats by the school to call the police or the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”).

The five plaintiff children won the Success Academy lottery and were enrolled in the school at various times between 2013 and 2015. They were between the ages of four and five at the time of their enrollment. Though the details vary, the essence of their claims is the same: Each plaintiff struggled to comply with the strict disciplinary code and was consequently barred from the classroom. …

I.L. struggled to conform to Success Academy’s strict Code of Conduct and was removed from class on an almost daily basis. I.L.’s father, Shawn Lawton, attempted to keep I.L. on track by sitting in on classes under the school’s parental “open door policy.” When he did so, I.L. was able to finish the school day. However, I.L. began to suffer from anxiety and depression stemming from his inability to function at Success Academy.

In December 2014, Mr. Lawton inquired about an individualized education plan (“IEP”) for I.L. under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Success Academy then began an IEP evaluation, but while it was being conducted Brown met with Mr. and Mrs. Lawton and told them I.L. was not a “good fit” for Success Academy. He then barred Mr. Lawton from the classroom.

The evaluation was completed in January 2015 and a behavior management plan was recommended, but not implemented. The Lawtons began to receive daily phone calls, almost immediately after I.L. arrived at school, informing them that he had been put in “cool down” and threatening removals and suspensions. In February 2015, the Lawtons removed I.L. from Success Academy. …

B.S. attended Success Academy from September 2014 to June 2015. Though he has not been classified as having a learning disability, defendants “regarded him as having a learning and/or behavioral disability that impeded his ability to comply with Success Academy’s rigid disciplinary code.” He was sent home early from school three to four times a week and suspended approximately five times. On one occasion, he was suspended because his father was five minutes late picking him up on an early dismissal day. Brown and other school officials repeatedly pressured B.S.’s mother, Monique Jeffrey, to remove her son from the school. She finally relented and did so in September 2015.

C.S. attended Success Academy from September 2014 to June 2015. He has “been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder (“ODD”).” In addition, “Success Academy perceived C.S. as having an autism spectrum disorder.”  His “learning disability substantially limited him in major life activities—namely, in learning.” C.S. also struggled to comply with the Code of Conduct and was frequently removed from class early, dismissed, and suspended. After Brown became principal, C.S. was suspended once or twice per week. In October 2014, C.S. was evaluated for an IEP and recommended for an Integrated Co-Teaching classroom. However, in November and December 2014, his mother, Shanice Givens, was repeatedly pressured to remove her son from the school. In February 2015, the school administration threatened to turn him over to ACS if Ms. Givens did not pick him up from school within twenty minutes. Ms. Givens enrolled C.S. in public school the following year. …

After the five students were disenrolled, the parents learned that Brown had intentionally targeted their children, among others, for removal using a so-called “Got to Go” list. The list targeted students, including those with disabilities or perceived disabilities, for removal from the school. The list was reported in a New York Times article, in which Brown acknowledged, “I felt I couldn’t turn [Success Academy Fort Greene] around if these students remained.”

From Judge Block’s reasoning regarding allowing the federal suit to move forward:

…The complaint is rife with allegations of bad faith or gross misjudgment, not the least of which was the establishment of the “Got to Go” list targeting disabled students for removal, as well as the daily removals, frequent suspensions, and repeated threats to call the police and ACS on four- and five-year-olds, which were sometimes acted upon. These allegations are sufficient to show more than “errors in judgment” on the part of Success Academy and Brown.

“Mistakes are sometimes made”??

Intentionally targeting young children for removal from school is no “mistake.” It is cruel foolishness that rightly resulted in a federal lawsuit.

scales of justice 2


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, Litigation

  1. Jack permalink

    On Dr. Ravitch’s blog, the COMMENTS section includes multiple posts about a picture of Eva and her family taunting the victims, laughing at them while holding up one of the protestors signs. Some commentors were so appalled that they suspected the photo was a fake achieved through photoshop.

    Eventually, Leonie Haimson chimed in that it was real.

    For a discussion of the photo, go to the article, then jog down to the COMMENTS section:

    If I were the plaintiffs, I would blow up that photo to the size of a garage door, glue onto a similarly-sized piece of plywood,. and enter it as an exhibit for the judge and jury to view, leaving it up for for as long as possible.

    Or perhaps, while Eva’s on the stand, bring back the garage-door-size blow up and have the plaintiffs’ lawyers pummel her with questions, asking her to defend what she’s doing in that picture:

    Here that photo again:


  2. Alan J. Singer permalink

    great work.

    Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies Teaching Learning Technology 290 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549 (P) 516-463-5853 (F) 516-463-6196

    Follow Alan on Twitter:

    Blogs, tweets, essays, interviews, and e-blasts present my views and not those of Hofstra University.


  3. Christine Langhoff permalink

    This is why teaching, especially in early childhood is not for amateurs. Trained educators understand child development and can use appropriate strategies that do not destroy a child’s sense of worth nor exacerbate behavior problems. No parent, particularly the low-income ones of whom Moskowitz portrays herself as a savior, should have to weigh harm to his/her child at school vs. being able to hold onto their job, either.

    These documented incidents are despicable.

  4. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Thanks for picking up circulating the sad and ugly details. Maybe the judge will require EVA to follow the rules that she imposed on the K-3 kids, including the proper way to sit on the floor and track every word the judge says.

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