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BART Targets Panhandling Oakland School Students

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Saint Andrew Private School in Oakland. (CBS)

Saint Andrew Private School in Oakland. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS 5) — A joint CBS 5 and California Watch investigation into an Oakland school that sends students out panhandling at BART stations has prompted the transit agency to take action.

The children have become a fixture at the stations, soliciting commuters daily, often during school hours and even after dark.

After seeing CBS 5’s reports, the BART Board of Directors voted to limit the time of day the children can panhandle. They have to be accompanied by an adult and they will no longer be allowed to approach people to beg for money, as they have been doing until now. They will have to set up a table just like groups such as the Girl Scouts do.

Meanwhile, the school’s pastor has ignored a request from Oakland school officials to prove he is not falsifying attendance records. And it appears he may be attempting a cover-up, going door-to-door trying to recruit more students for his school.

14-year old Acacia said she was out in her driveway last week when a stranger drove up. Acacia told CBS 5 the man asked him for her name and number.

The man introduced himself as Pastor Robert Lacy, the same Pastor Lacy that has been dodging our cameras for months.

Acacia said the man was going door to door in her neighborhood. “He was trying to get more students to come to his school and participate,” she said.

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Lacy is the principal of Saint Andrew Missionary Baptist School in West Oakland, a school CBS 5 found inflating enrollment numbers in order to get tens of thousands of federal education dollars.

The school claims to have 195 students. Our joint investigation with media partner California Watch found it has less than 20.

As a result of our reports, school officials launched their own investigation and sent a letter to Pastor Lacy, giving him 30 days to “verify…that the list of students submitted to the district is accurate.”

“The attendance records are not there, and the qualifications of the individuals that were providing the instructions are not there,” said school board member Noel Gallo.

As a result, Gallo said, “We are not going to pass through any funds to Saint Andrew Missionary School for the coming year, that’s the bottom line.”

But the school’s leaders don’t seem to be giving up. New banners are up all over the school gates advertising open enrollment, transportation and free lunches.

Appearing briefly, Pastor Lacy’s son Robert Lacy Jr. told CBS 5 the enrollment drive was nothing new. “Oh no those signs are kind of old,” he said. “We’re getting ready for September, well for August. First day of school.”

But he walked away before CBS 5 could talk to him about how many students the school really has, or his father’s door-to-door recruitment effort.

Acacia says she wouldn’t have fallen for it anyways. “I thought he was weird, scary. He looks scary. I thought it was a kidnapper or something! It freaked me out.”

Our investigation reveals former students were also scared of Pastor Lacy and his son, who is a teacher at the school. More than a dozen former students and their parents have come forward with stories of abuse.

Late Friday, Saint Andrew responded to the Oakland Unified School District. The school said the district does not have the authority to make them verify enrollment numbers. The school went on to submit a request for a similar program next year, listing again a similar number of enrolled students.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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