This article was reported by the Teacher Project at Columbia University School of Journalism with support from ProPublica.
The Muscogee County School Board in Columbus, Georgia, dealt another blow to embattled Camelot Education when it voted 5–3 Monday night to delay for three months a decision on whether to hire the company to run its alternative education programs.
The delay in awarding the $6.4 million annual contract comes in the wake of a recent report by ProPublica and Slate that more than a dozen Camelot students were allegedly shoved, beaten, or thrown by staff members—incidents almost always referred to as “slamming.” The for-profit Camelot runs alternative programs across the country for more than 3,000 students, most of whom have emotional or behavioral difficulties or have fallen far behind academically.
“The abuse allegations were one of many red flags for me,” said Muscogee school board member Frank Myers, one of the five board members who supported postponement. If the district is going to privatize such an important service, he said, “you ought to have an outfit that has a pristine record.”
The board bucked the wishes of school district officials, including Superintendent of Education David Lewis, who pushed to hire Camelot. “There was no transparency,” Myers said. “They wanted us to rush this thing.”
Instead, a community advisory council will be created, and additional public hearings will be held. The council is expected to report back within three months.
Efforts to reach Lewis were unsuccessful. Camelot spokesman Kirk Dorn said in an email that the company often encounters delays when it enters new partnerships. The company expects to meet with the community later this month “and will…