Prince George's County Public Schools

PGCPS Students Say They Were Threatened Not to Testify About Proposed Closure of Alternative Schools

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Prince George's County police are investigating after some students say they were threatened and told not to testify before the county's board of education in a heated fight to save two alternative high schools from possible closure.

In the Prince George's County School Board meeting Thursday night, dozens of students, staff and parents begged for two alternative high schools to stay open.

“I would hate to see other kids lose the opportunity I had,” student Mack Mauvais said.

In the proposed school budget, there's a plan to close Tall Oaks and Community Based Classroom (CBC) – both alternative high schools. The school system would then redesign alternative education to include online learning, the creation of a northern and a southern alternative school, and an option for at risk students to return to traditional schools.

“At risk youth do not need so-called bigger and better programs,” CBC teacher Sarah Schauffler said. “They need smaller environments that cater to individual needs.”

Those in opposition have presented emotional testimony over the past two weeks.

Some CBC students say they received random calls threatening them to not testify. Jade Mason was one of them.

“She said do not speak at this Thursday's meeting or any future budget meetings,” she said.

A report was filed with Prince George's County police, and the incident is under investigation.

“But I will not be silenced,” Mason said. “To the woman who called, if you are here, you have only created more hopes for the future of CBC.”

“When I think about just the testimonies we've heard at the last two meetings, it has become abundantly clear to myself and my colleagues that the model at the Community Based Classroom has really worked,” Board member Shayla Adams-Stafford said.

Adams-Stafford is opposed to changing the alternative school structure, which currently boasts a more than 90% graduation rate.

“I'd actually like to see additional support given to these schools,” she said.

The principals of the two high schools proposed for closure filed suit against the school system in 2019 for unpaid wages.

“Both of those alternative schools happen to be my clients who are the principals, and we have a trial coming up in April,” attorney Mitchell Batt said. “Whether or not there is a causal connection between those two, I don't know, but it's certainly something that piques our interest and we're looking into it.”

The Prince George's County school system did not respond to News4’s requests for comment.

The board of education will vote on the final budget at the end of the month.

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