OAKLAND -- Parents and grandparents whose children once attended the tiny private school in West Oakland run by the St. Andrew's Missionary Baptist Church told horror stories this week at an Oakland school board meeting about how students are treated there.
One mother said the school's director, church leader Robert Lacy Jr., verbally abused her daughter, whom she removed from the school after 10 days. Others recalled discovering that the children -- ostensibly being kept at school late in the evening for Bible study -- were actually being taken to San Francisco to ask passers-by for money.
Catherine Joiner said her son, Charles, was robbed during one of those trips, and there were no adult supervisors around to help him or prevent the crime from happening.
Joiner said the boy was just 9 when he was locked in a room in the church building as punishment during the 2008-09 school year. Eventually, she said, "my child fell two stories trying to get to the restroom."
In a brief interview Wednesday night, Joiner said her son, who is still traumatized by what happened, suffered broken bones from the fall. He told her he had thought God would catch him, she said; she responded that God had saved his life.
Although it's a private school, St. Andrew's receives federal funding for low-income students. That money passes through the Oakland school district; the school board approves the contracts.
California Watch reported last week
On Wednesday night, families demanded that the school board take steps to have the school closed or stop approving the federal funding. The Oakland school board is not the authorizer of the school -- only of some of its funding -- so its powers are limited.
"I'd just really like to know what's going to be done about this school, because children are being exploited," one grandmother said.
General counsel Jacqueline Minor reported that the matter would be taken up in closed session later in the evening. "We take the allegations very seriously," she said. "Additional investigatory work is under way."
Lacy, himself, made an appearance in the board room. In a brief statement, he said he could not respond to every claim that had been made but that he would cooperate with the district administration in its investigation.