Staci and her husband recently enrolled their 12 year-old son in Basis San Antonio. What follows is the horror story of that experience, recounted by Staci herself.
We enrolled our son in BASIS San Antonio in June 2013 after an introduction to the school from other parents at our son’s elementary school. At that time, it appeared to be an answer to our prayers. We were struggling with the decision of where to send him for middle school. Our son attended NISD elementary school, Aue Elementary School from 1st -5th grade and it was not been a positive experience. Our son is an exemplary student, never missed a question on standardized tests and a student in the Gifted and Talented “Alpha” program starting in Kindergarten. But, the education he received in elementary school did not match his educational abilities. Starting in the 3rd grade, my husband and I started stressing about where to send him for middle school. We were led to believe from educators in our son’s school that the middle school that he was assigned to attend based on our geographic boundaries was just a continuation of the less than exemplary education that he received in elementary school. We contacted many private schools in the area, considered selling our home in order to move to an area with a higher rated middle school and my husband actually considered transferring to another state with his job. When we learned about BASIS San Antonio, it sounded too good to be true. We attended all the information sessions, did online research about the school and our son participate in the hiring process of the teachers of the school. We felt very fortunate when he was registered in the school.
Our son is a 6th grade student. His education at BASIS included Chemistry, Physics, Algebra, Art History, World History, Biology, Physical Education. Every night starting the first day of school, he was assigned between 3-5 hours worth of homework. Throughout the school year, he gave up all extracurricular activities in order to complete the homework requirements. By the end of the school year, he would come home at 4 pm, open his books and go to bed at 9 pm only stopping to eat dinner. If he did not have his homework completed 100% by the next school day, he would receive a zero on the homework assignment. The homework assignments and projects were also required on Saturday and Sunday.
After the first day of school, all communication from the school stopped. Our son was never provided a progress report until the end of the first grading period. No emails sent to the teachers were returned. Calls and emails to teachers and to the Head of School were not returned. The lack of leadership and quality administration of the school was profound. We discovered that the qualifications of the Head of School were not accurate on the website and were misrepresented in writing. The BASIS San Antonio Parent/Community Facebook page was administered by cyberbully parents. According to children attending the school, the students were kind, respectful and courteous but the parents were bullies to each other and the students. By the end of the school year, mandatory detention for any and all infractions was developed and highly enforced with no oversight by the Head of School.
Why our Son Stayed at BASIS
One Single Quality Administrator
We were concerned about the lack of communication, 3-5 hours of rigorous homework per night but there was one single individual who we greatly respected. The Assistant Head of School was the “exemplary” educator that we felt had our son’s best interest at heart. Dr. Abby Hasberrry assured my husband and me that our son was the exact type of student that BASIS tries to find in the public school system. We really believed that the school was the best place for him and she empowered us to help him master the process of the first year at BASIS San Antonio. In addition, our son scored very high on the mandatory “pre-comp” testing required at BASIS. We were assured that all kids have a hard time adjusting to the educational rigor and that we needed to be patient and let the school system work for our son.
Charter Schools Have No Nurse
There is not a requirement /regulation of a nurse at BASIS San Antonio. Our son became ill with the flu in December. Because there was no nurse and no nurse’s station, when our son became extremely ill at school, he was sent to the boy’s bathroom and was unsupervised by an adult for over 45 minutes while young boys using the restroom walked in and out of the restroom. When I arrived at the school, he was lying on his backpack under the urinals in the boy’s bathroom. As a result, our son was placed in the PICU for treatment of pneumonia and the flu and missed three weeks of school. When I posted the facts of what happened to our son on the school Facebook page in order to work with other parents to discuss Best Practices at other charter schools and to discuss solutions, over 75 personal threatening comments from other parents were posted in response to my comment asking to work together for a positive solution comment. In addition, a student with a headache is directed to the office. The office staff instructs the children that until they vomit they are expected to go back to class.
Lack of Leadership
After my son was found in the restroom, violently ill under the urinals, the Head of School, Tiffany O’Neil, was contacted about what happened to my son on her campus. She was called and emailed repeatedly by both myself and my husband. She finally responded four days after the incident with our son with a call to us after 9 pm. We never heard from her again despite multiple calls and emails sent to her requesting a meeting, to discuss safety at the school as well as establishing a better protocol of how to help kids when they get sick at school.
The parking lot of BASIS San Antonio is very dangerous. Parents dropping off their children would drive straight through orange safety cones. My husband and I donated signs, cones and provided additional donations from the City of San Antonio. Without our donation of safety equipment, the school would not have any safety supplies. In addition, students at BASIS would frequently steal each others lunches, backpacks, cell phones and other personal property with no direction from the administration of the school.
Charter Schools Have No Lunch Program
There is no lunch program at charter schools. My son had his lunch stolen from his backpack by another student. The students are not allowed to use the phone at the school and my son went an entire day without eating food. He snuck a crust of another student’s pizza out of the garbage can to sustain himself during the day.
Lack of Governance
I contacted Victoria Rico, the Chairman of the George Brackenridge Foundation. I offered to help the school obtain access to a nurse at no cost, help establish collaboration with local hospital systems and help obtain grants to help fund, the result was very positive. A meeting with the CEO of the Texas BASIS Schools was scheduled. The result of the meeting with the CEO was that there was no interest on the part of BASIS San Antonio to collaborate with the community nor add infrastructure that was not required. Dan Neinhauser, CEO of BTX (Basis Texas)
Lack of Interest in Becoming a Community Partner
I offered to raise awareness of BASIS San Antonio by helping host tours of those who fund my nonprofit agency, host board meetings at the school and introduce innovative collaborators who would have a vested interest in the growth and success of the school. All offers were declined by the CEO of BASIS Texas Schools, Dan Neinhauser, CEO of BTX (Basis Texas)
Lack of Nurturing and Compassion
We have a 22 year old daughter with a terminal illness. I emailed all of our son’s teachers/administrators to let them know that our son may need additional support and at times could be sad due to the situation at home. Not one teacher or administrator communicated back. I called and left messages with all teachers. No calls were returned. I contacted Mr. Ross, new Assistant Head of School and he claimed that he received the email but he was transitioning into his new role and just forgot to contact us.
Our son proceeded to master the rigorous challenges of the curriculum and succeed at BASIS. Once he felt very confident that he had mastered the schoolwork, homework and projects required, a note came home stating that BASIS would be implementing a mandatory detention for students who were late to class and unprepared in any way. The first week, my son received mandatory detention for forgetting a dry erase marker in Algebra, for not completing three problems out of 180 required Algebra problems and forgetting a poem in English Class. The “Take This Job and Shove It” approach was evident when he received the third detention. My son threw his required communication journal in the garbage can to the displeasure of his Algebra teacher. When I emailed her to discuss, she told me that assigning mandatory detention was the way to “build character attributes desirable for all BASIS students” I emailed Victoria Rico at the George Brackenridge Foundation. I share the mandatory detention requirement with her and she was not aware and horrified. She agreed that the detention should be stopped immediately, there needs to be stronger oversight of the school by a better administrator/Head of School and a staff member to interface with the family. She told me that she offered to BASIS Corporation to pay for a staff member and the offer was declined.
The End of BASIS for our Son
On May 6th, 2014, I was called by Mr. Ross, Assistant Head of School. He was Dr. Abby Hasberry’s replacement, (she was hired to be the Head of School for the new BASIS North Campus). My son was found alive yet mentally nonresponsive sitting on the floor under an Art Table. Upon arriving at the school, I immediately knew that he needed mental health support. I took him to Clarity Child Guidance Center. Upon evaluating my son, the diagnosis was extreme depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal thoughts to harm himself. The hospital / psychiatrist medical opinion, they believed that our son was suffering from PTSD from the experiences at the school due to the rigorous educational requirements coupled with the mandatory detention had become a source of terror for him. Our son is now a patient at Clarity Child Guidance Center. He spent time inpatient at the hospital and is now receiving day program outpatient treatment at a cost of $835 per day inpatient and $125 per day outpatient.
Terror Not an Isolated Experience
I contacted Victoria Rico at the George Brackenridge Foundation and she asked if she could help “make it right” for our family. She offered to help find another school for him to attend. The damage has been done. We feel comfort and extreme sadness to learn that our son’s experience at BASIS San Antonio is not an isolated experience. When we took our son to Clarity Child Guidance Center both the psychiatrist and counselor both told us that other children had been seen inpatient and outpatient at the facility and had been at BASIS San Antonio, same symptoms, same story.
Future of Education for our Son
We have no idea where to take our son for education at this point. But, we know that whatever decision we make that nurturing and compassion of a child must be the foremost important factor in the choice we make. Our son was terrorized at a high performance charter school and he is not the only one. This can not be the future of children in our community. We are publicly sharing our experiences because it should have never happened to our son. He was a victim and more importantly he is 12 years old. Children should be in a safe and nurturing environment. BASIS San Antonio is more of a concentration camp than a school for children.
Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the official position of NEPC, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.