Some students at a north Minneapolis high School are objecting to a district remedy for a bureaucratic failure over class credits.
An ongoing investigation by the Minneapolis school district has found some credits were awarded improperly at Broadway High School, and students have been learning in recent weeks that they'll have to make up classes.
Last year, Angel Foreman, 17, took a culinary class at Broadway High. It was a cooking class, but she was also getting credit towards the math she'd need to graduate. She said it seemed odd, but was assured it was fine.
"We did have suspicions of things," she said. "For me, I checked up on mine to see if it was okay. And it said 'Okay, it's legit.'
It turns out the credit wasn't legit. That class was one target of a school district investigation into whether credits were improperly granted for core requirements.
Two school administrators and at least three other employees are on administrative leave. At least one teacher resigned this month in lieu of being fired.
Technically, all credits will still be honored as electives, but Foreman already has enough electives. That means she'll lose 13 credits in core subjects like math and reading.
Foreman also has a four-year-old son (Broadway's students are all pregnant teens and young mothers) and wants to go to college to become a medical assistant, instead of living the stereotype of a teen mom.
"We're supposed to dropout," Foreman said. "We're supposed to end up on welfare; our kids are supposed to be north side hoodrats, or something. And you see us try to rise above that, climb above that, and you pull us down? I just don't understand that."
The district has repeatedly said students are not to blame for the credit crisis, but the students say all decisions to date have had the effect of a punishment. On that point, superintendent Bernadeia Johnson agrees.
"Yeah, I'm the woman who's taking away their credits, and it's frustrating for them, and I understand that completely," Johnson said. "I'm also the woman who's trying to figure out how to give them the resources and tools to get the credits they need."
Johnson said the school is working with each student on individual plans for making up credits, whether that's taking an online course or attending Saturday classes.
Officials are focused on about 19 students who had planned to graduate this spring, students like Angel Foreman. Other students were also affected, but they're not as far along in high school and the district believes they can make up credits and still graduate on time.
Students say Broadway has become a difficult place to be. They say teachers have stopped talking to them, they can't get copies of their own transcripts, and they lament that Broadway moved into the North High building this year. Several services that were on-site last year are gone. That includes daycare for their own children, which is now off-site.
Makayla Johnson, 17, still hopes to graduate this spring but is discouraged.
"I go to class and just sit there, I don't know what to do," she said.
Genny Pongsak, 20, has moved to a new school.
"My way of fighting back was to leave the school," she said. "I didn't feel comfortable going back to that school, I felt like being back at that school, I wasn't going to learn anything Even if I did learn anything, nor if I was to do the work, who knows if I'll get credit for it?"
The students have their supporters, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, who said Johnson should let the current students graduate, though he admits he has no power over the district.
"It's not the girls' responsibility to make sure the teacher is licensed, so why make the girls be the ones who suffer as a result of an administrative failure? I mean, has any adult had to face the music for this?" he said.
Johnson said allowing the students to graduate would be unfair to the students because they wouldn't have met the academic standards the diploma represents. State records show zero Broadway students were proficient in math or reading on the state's MCA standardized test last year.
"If I could do something different, I absolutely would," Johnson said. "But if I awarded the credits, then I would be doing the same thing that's already happened, and I can't do that. First of all, it's not ethical, it's not moral, and it's not legal."
Johnson said she's also worried past Broadway graduates have diplomas they don't entirely deserve -- but she has no intention of revoking those diplomas.