OAKLAND (CBS 5) — A private school in Oakland that sends students to panhandling at BART stations is facing abuse allegations after a video from a former student surfaced.
Former students at Saint Andrew Missionary Baptist School said the long hours they spent out on the street are just part of the picture, because much more went on behind the scenes.
CBS 5 obtained cell phone video that shows a child’s head being smashed against a car window. The video appears to show a Saint Andrew teacher beating a student, who is also her own child.
Former student Aaliyah Carney said she shot the video three years ago. “Her head was just like going boom boom boom,” Carney said.
It happened in the same school van that a CBS 5 investigation found taking students out for what they said is mandatory panhandling. “I was just scared that we were going to wreck,” said Carney.
But the beating itself didn’t surprise Carney. “They always beat the kids there, so it wasn’t nothing new. Whenever a kid misbehaved they like hit them or slapped them,” she said.
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It’s a theme heard again and again over the past two years, from close to a dozen former Saint Andrew students such as Tajonae Cross, seen panhandling daily in downtown San Francisco.
“Sometimes the teachers hit the children,” Cross said. Court documents from a custody case describe how she claims Andrew Lacy, the school’s pastor’s son, “struck her repeatedly in the face, resulting in a bloody nose.”
Then there’s Catherine Joyner and her son Charlos, who was 9-years-old when he attended Saint Andrew last year.
“I was very worried about what was going to happen,” he told us.
Charlos Joyner said one day when he got in trouble for talking, teacher Robert Lacy Jr. padlocked him alone in the church’s choir room.
“I felt that they were just going to leave me up there,” he said. Charlos tried to climb out the window, but fell instead, and broke a foot.
“He fell two stories and I thank God he’s here,” his mother told the Oakland school board at an emotional meeting last month. .
With so many complaints of abuse, one would think child welfare authorities would have taken action. Alameda County Social Services wouldn’t talk to CBS 5 on camera but said in a statement that, “all allegations of abuse or neglect … have been evaluated or investigated.”
It’s something many families involved find hard to believe. “Then who is responsible? Who is responsible for these kids?” said Marilyn Lawson. Her granddaughter Tahara was on the school van on the day that beating caught on cell phone video took place.
“I was just appalled,” Lawson said. “For them to be abusive to a child in front of a kid like Tahara, it’s horrible. What does that do mentally to these kids?”
Lawson said she immediately contacted Child Protective Services. “I said do you want to see the video? I have it. And she said ‘Ma’am we’ll get back to you.’ They never called me back,” she said.
CBS 5 showed the video to child advocate and attorney Jan Sherwood. “It’s actual evidence of a child being abused,” she said. “And the fact that they didn’t apparently even ask to see the video is very troubling.”
Sherwood said equally serious is evidence revealed by CBS 5 that students of Saint Andrew are forced to panhandle every day, for hours at a time, often until late at night.
“As I recall, two years ago they said they were raising money for a new school. Now I didn’t see a new school, and you wonder where is all that money going? It’s obviously not being used to educate these children. And that raises the additional issue that it looks like these kids are being exploited,” Sherwood said.
CBS 5 asked the Alameda County Department of Social Services about the outcome of their investigations of Saint Andrew, but the department said they cannot comment.
The school has not commented as of Thursday night.
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