Charter schools at center of complaints to Ohio Board of Ed

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Charter schools at center of complaints to Ohio Board of Ed

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Dayton charter school under investigation by FBI

A Dayton charter school raided by the FBI last month now will be the center of an investigation by the Ohio Department of Education after allegations that included student sex acts, attendance rate falsification and test tampering.

Four former employees of the Dayton Horizon Science Academy, 250 Shoup Mill Road, testified in front of the department of education in Columbus on Tuesday and said students engaged in oral sex while others watched.

"I don't think parents had any idea what was going on at the school," said Kellie Kockensparger, who taught at the Dayton charter school for three years before leaving for another Dayton-area teaching job last March.

Kockensparger and another former employee, Richard Storrick, accused the school of allowing sexual activity to occur during classes and other school-related functions.

According to Kockensparger, the school "failed to tell parents that their kids were suspended for having oral sex outside of the building where they were supposed to be inside attending a school-sponsored after-school cultural festival."

The sex acts reportedly were captured on surveillance video, Kockensparger said.

Horizon Science Academy is a public charter school that provides its students with an innovative education, rich in math, science and technology, according to the school's website.

The Dayton Daily News received a written statement from Concept Schools, the parent organization that manages Horizon Science Academy, after the newspaper asked for comment.

"Like any public charter school, we are accountable to the families we serve. As part of that, we prioritize ensuring a school environment that is safe, professional and one that supports students, faculty and staff," the statement read. "As we move forward, we continue to maintain the highest standards of excellence for our students, our faculty and ourselves."

Storrick, who taught math for two-plus years there, said some students participated in a sex game during a middle school math class.

"A sex game was going on while the teacher was trying to teach," Storrick said. "More than once a male student put his hand on a girl's knee and asked, 'are you nervous?' "

If the female student said no, the male student would move his hand up her thigh.

"The game was not a one-time occurrence, yet the teacher did nothing, insisting he didn't know about the game. The school's director was told about the incident, did nothing and rehired the teacher the following year," Storrick said.

The nearly hour-long testimony left some of the state school board members disturbed.

"Inside, my blood is boiling," board member Deb Cain said. "We as a state board and as a department of education, we have got to get to the bottom of this, and every single allegation needs to be investigated to the fullest."

Board President Debe Terhar told the employees who testified that the state will take the allegations seriously.

"We hear you, we will move forward to make sure that this is investigated," Terhar said.

Other former employees, including teacher Tim Neary, said the school is covering up other issues.

"School administrators clearly lied about attendance. I never had a full class and they'd say the school had a 97 percent attendance rate," Neary said. " There was no oversight at all."

Neary also said the school potentially tampered with standardized tests.

"All the tests would go into one room, with an administrator behind a locked door. Nobody else got to see what was going on," Neary told the board.

Horizon Science Academy of Dayton is one of 19 schools in Ohio affiliated with an influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, and began operating under Concept Schools management in 1999.

On June 4 the FBI served a search warrant in connection to a "white-collar crime," but the bureau did not disclose any additional details about its investigation of the organization.

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