Education Law Center has filed an official complaint with the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) regarding the recent exclusion of students from Marion P. Thomas Charter School (MPTCS) in Newark. As depicted in videos and news articles, MPTCS excluded dozens of students at the opening of school for non-compliance with the school’s uniform policy. The school also did not notify parents that their children could not attend school, resulting in students congregating in a neighborhood park without supervision.
The ELC complaint explains that MPTCS’s exclusion of students for minor infractions of the school’s uniform policy raises legal violations requiring NJDOE investigation. The complaint is based on reports from parents, including allegations that MPTCS falsely accused one parent of failing to submit residency documentation after her son was featured in one of the videos of the incident. Other parents reported having to expend time and money to buy new shoes conforming to the MPTCS uniform to prevent their children from losing more time in school, even though they were excluded for wearing the exact same shoes deemed appropriate attire the year before.
The complaint asks the NJDOE to investigate the incident and take corrective action, including a thorough review of the school’s uniform policy and whether MPTCS enforcement of the policy is fair and legal. The complaint also asks the NJDOE to conduct training of MPTCS staff to prevent future recurrences and for disciplinary action, if necessary, to be taken against the school and school staff responsible for any violations of student and parental rights. Finally, the complaint asks for recourse for the families, including reimbursement for double expenditures and any necessary corrections to student records.
“It is obvious that these students believed they were in compliance with the school’s uniform policy, because they wore similar or even the exact same shoes last year,” said ELC Legal Fellow Richard Frost. “Excluding these students without notifying parents was an extreme, poorly reasoned, and unlawful punishment for what should never have become a discipline issue in the first place.”
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