If you read the website for Harrison Educational Center you might get the impression that it represents the best Minneapolis Public Schools can do for students with extensive special education needs.
It says “At Harrison Education Center, we treat ourselves, each other, and our school with respect. We take responsibility for our learning, honor our community, and strive for a safe and positive school for all.”
Besides creating a respectful “community” the school also touts its academics.
“Harrison provides students with a comprehensive educational and behavioral program designed to improve their academic skills and support appropriate school behaviors,” the site says.
One problem. That rosy picture is it disputed by students and observers who have had a very different experience with Harrison. At least one student, “J.G.” a sixteen year old formerly assigned to Harrison, says his experience was far from respectful. In fact, he says students were routinely stripped of their basic civil rights.
According to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights division Harrison has an abusive environment that denies students of their federally protected right to a “Free Appropriate Public Education.”
The complaint was filed by the Community Justice Project and supported by Black Advocates for Education on March 20th.
This isn’t the first time these issues have surfaced. In recent years there have been news reports, community advocacy, and even a lawsuit to call attention to conditions at Harrison- but no systemic change.
Student attorneys, headed by BAE co-founder Nekima Levy-Pounds, along with BAE members, expect threat of action from the DOJ will give MPS leaders a push to change how special education students, and those who are black and poor, are educated in Minneapolis.
See the full complaint below.