Parents and community leaders are calling for the firing of Septima P. Clark Corporate Academy’s program director after he allegedly forced a 16-year-old student to sit on a school bus in her panties following a dress code check Friday.
Charleston County School District spokesman Daniel Head said Program Director Andrew HaLevi has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “Once the investigation has concluded, we will take all necessary and appropriate corrective action.”
According to a report filed with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, HaLevi approached the student on Friday about her dress, “which he believed to be an inappropriate length.” The student agreed to change into sweatpants provided by the school.
At the end of the school day, HaLevi told an employee to stop all school buses from leaving because he wanted the sweatpants back, according to an incident report. The school resource officer wrote that HaLevi entered a school bus and then exited it with the sweatpants in his hands.
“At this time,” the deputy wrote, the student “stuck her head out the window crying and began screaming that he was making her ride the bus without any pants on.”
HaLevi re-entered the bus and spoke to some students, then left the bus without the sweatpants. The officer boarded the bus and found the student in the back row with the sweatpants next to her wearing a T-shirt, a zip-up sweatshirt and panties. Students on the bus said another student had the dress.
The officer wrote that she told HaLevi the student’s mother would need to be called, and HaLevi agreed. “(HaLevi) re-entered the bus to speak with the students and advise them he didn’t know she wasn’t wearing the dress,” according to the report.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the case is still active but that no arrests have been made and no charges are pending.
Linda Hamilton, who said she is the mother of the student in the incident report, said she wants HaLevi to be fired and arrested.
“She’s been horrified by it,” Hamilton said of her daughter. “At one point she was thinking about killing herself just knowing that everybody was going to know what happened to her.”
The student, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had already worn the dress to school five times and that it met the dress code because the hem fell beneath her fingertips with her arms at her side.
Marvin Lamar Bowens, a member of the Constituent District 23 Board of Trustees, said he and other community activists are giving the district until Friday to fire HaLevi.
“If not, we’re going to do a protest at the school,” Bowens said.
Clark Academy is a districtwide alternative program on James Island for high school students who have fallen behind academically.
HaLevi previously taught at Burke High for more than a decade and was named the district’s Teacher of the Year in 2000. He founded the Charleston Teacher Alliance, a teacher advocacy group, in 2003. He took over as program director at Clark Academy in 2008.
HaLevi responded to the allegations through his lawyer, Allan Holmes, saying, “The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not allow for the public dissemination of student educational records. Without the consent of the Charleston County School District, we will not discuss the particulars of the baseless allegations made against Dr. HaLevi. We will unequivocally state that he has not engaged in any misconduct of any kind.”
Holmes also wrote “extra clothing is kept at the school for students who come to school whose dress does not comply with the dress requirements of the CCSD Code of Conduct. For example, a student whose dress is too short might be required to wear a pair of sweat pants under her dress. She would also continue to wear her dress.
“Students are expected to return the extra clothing when the school day ends. However, no student would be required to return sweat pants if she told the school authorities that the sweat pants were her only garment.”
Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.