A state District Court judge let stand last week’s decision Thursday by the state’s top school board to revoke Pelican Educational Foundation’s contract to run a New Orleans charter school.
Pelican also runs Kenilworth Science & Technology School in Baton Rouge.
The charter school is under investigation by the state Department of Education.
School officials have denied any wrongdoing.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted Aug. 3 to remove Abramson Science and Technology School from Pelican’s control amid allegations of sexual abuse and other alleged problems at the eastern New Orleans charter school.
Pelican attorney Benjamin Slater argued Thursday that Pelican was denied a revocation hearing, but state District Judge William Morvant ruled BESE is allowed to immediately revoke a charter contract if it finds the “health, safety and welfare of students is threatened.’’
“These very reasons are not only allowed for BESE to proceed, they’re authorized by the contract,’’ Morvant said, referring to BESE’s contract with Pelican.
The judge agreed with the arguments made Thursday by Assistant Attorney General Angelique Freel, who represents both BESE and BESE President Penny Dastugue in a lawsuit Pelican filed last week.
“We are pleased with the result of the hearing and believe that BESE must have the ability to act immediately when the health, safety and welfare of our students are threatened,’’ Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil-rights organization, also applauded Morvant’s ruling.
“This decision will help protect students when charter school operators violate the law and it affirms state education officials’ obligation to hold charter schools responsible when they violate the law,’’ said Eden Heilman, senior staff attorney for the SPLC’s Louisiana office.
Slater said the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge will be asked to review Morvant’s decision.
Slater also lashed out at BESE’s handling of the Abramson matter.
“We view it as a dangerous precedent,’’ he said. “It puts at risk every charter operator in the state. This was a total rush to judgment. We have been railroaded through the entire process.’’
Fellow Pelican attorney King Logan said the Kenilworth Science and Technology School community is “extremely concerned.’’ Kenilworth is a middle school.
Abramson is now being managed by the state-run Recovery School District, which oversees troubled schools. Abramson, which was founded in 2007, is a K-12 school.
Pelican and the state Department of Education were sued last month by the mother of a former Kenilworth student. The state court lawsuit claims the girl was mistreated by faculty and students to the point that she had a “near-nervous breakdown’’ and was forced to be home-schooled in order to pass the eighth grade after being suspended several times and then expelled.
Another suit filed last year alleges the school wrongfully fired a dean of students, discipline monitor and teacher on the basis of their race, gender, national origin and religion.
That suit is pending in federal court here.
Charter schools are publicly funded, overseen by independent boards and are supposed to offer innovative education methods.
Louisiana has 88 such schools that are used by about 35,000 students, which is 5 percent of the state’s public school enrollment.