The U.S. Department of Education has started its own investigation into Douglass Mid-High School, where former students and teachers allege administrators changed grades and forged attendance records.
Oklahoma City Public Schools has been conducting a parallel investigation for months.
“The district investigation is ongoing,” Superintendent Karl Springer said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with the United States Department of Education.”
A complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education, a school district spokeswoman confirmed. However, a federal education spokesman could not immediately provide information about that complaint.
Recently, a group of former teachers and students handed over affidavits about Douglass Mid-High School to the school board. In the documents, they claim cheating was rampant in the school, and most point the finger at Principal Brian Staples. Here are excerpts from those papers:
• Former social studies teacher Cory Tye: “I was instructed by Brian Staples and his staff to not give out homework and make copies of the chapter because students didn't need to do homework. ... I was instructed by Dr. Staples to pass all students no matter what.”
• Kanda Barnes, a 2011 graduate: “During the school term 2010-2011, both fall and spring, I did not have a 12th grade English class. This class is a requirement for graduation. Dr. Brian Staples gave me a C both semesters for my 12th grade English class. Dr. Brian Staples suggested a student to take my Algebra class online for me. This was a difficult class for me. The Assistant Principal Ms. Cox called her into her office. I paid her $100 and $150 more after completion. My freshman math grades had been switched previous from two F's to two C's by Dr. Staples. ... ”
• Former teacher Annita Lewis: “I have documentation showing, per semester, students with excessive absence and tardies which had a significantly negative impact on that student's grade. However, the student's grade does not reflect this information within the Douglass grade system.”
Douglass Principal Brian Staples declined to comment.
“I've learned to be patient and wait on the truth,” he said.
Teachers weren't allowed to fail students, said one Oklahoma City teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.
“Their minimum was 70 percent,” she said.
She also said that Staples directed all teachers to do lessons in English and math regardless of their regular subjects. So, for example, students received credit for art and social studies, even though they worked only on English in those classes.
“Cheating is a sad reality in education, not just in Oklahoma City Public Schools,” she said. “But yes, cheating is a problem in the district.”
Former Assistant Principal Marcia Muhammad, who was fired while working under Staples, said she uncovered cheating.
Muhammad said she was suspicious when she saw students she suspected to be failing have transcripts with all C's.
When she asked a science teacher about one student, the teacher said she gave the boy a D — not a C. When she started asking around, the science teacher wasn't the only one who said grades were changed by administrators.
“I heard little things,” Muhammad said.
Why would a principal cheat for students?
“It saves the funding,” she said. “It saves the school. It makes him look good. It hurts the kids, but it makes him look good.”
Muhammad said she witnessed the consequences of cheating first hand. She said her son graduated with honors from Douglass and then went on to college, where he couldn't make it. The letdown of failing college was tough on her son, she said.
“It was humiliating,” she said. “It was very hurtful.”
The long-term results for students like her son are devastating, she said.
“They're coming out of school, they're getting in trouble and then they're in jail,” she said. “It's a pipeline form the classroom to the cell block.”