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Students walk out at MITCS in support of recently fired principal and suspended students

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MIDLAND ― While pushing to have their voices heard by administrators, students at the Midland Innovation and Technology Charter School (MITCS) used their lunch break to stage a peaceful protest Wednesday afternoon.

On May 8, students walked out of the building during their lunch break to support their former principal, David Krakoff, and protest the suspension of 10 students after an incident involving an in-class assignment earlier in the week. According to students and parents, the suspension of these students started around two hours after Krakoff’s sudden removal and parents were not given any information by Wednesday afternoon.

“The issue now is that something is going on with MITCS,” said Robin Maria Hood, a parent at the school whose son was suspended on May 6. “I reached out to every single member of the board via email and phone. I reached out to the superintendent of Midland School District. He’s the only person who reached out to me the entire board has ignored me. The CEO is not interested in figuring out how to move forward. The leadership of the school has effectively disappeared. So that’s where we’re at, with no answers.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the charter school’s CEO, Terrance Smith, has not responded to The Times’ request for comments on Krakoff’s removal or student suspensions. While reporters could obtain information on what allegedly led to the suspensions, parents and staff said they did not know what had led to the sudden removal of the principal.

Steve Hood, who attended the event with his wife and sons, said there hadn’t been any visible issues with Krakoff as principal and the administrator had done a good job making students feel accepted. For his son, who is diagnosed with ADHD and autism, the environment crafted at the school has been welcoming until these recent events.

“The principal is like the nicest most supportive of all the students,” said Hood. “He really creates a great environment. My son can be against going to school and he makes him excited to go to school, excited to learn. He really improved his education and I’ve never heard anything negative about the principal until this happened.”

According to parents, they were not informed in any official way that Krakoff was suspended on Monday, but parents talking with each other had confirmed he was not in that role anymore. By the end of the day Tuesday, he had been officially removed from his role as principal, but no notice was given to parents by that point either.

While the school has not publicly stated why Krakoff was removed from office, parents are concerned that his removal may have been a move in the school’s politics.

“I found out that some of the staff are against the principal going out of his way to help kids who have IEPs (individualized education plans), and this is just hearsay, that they don’t want the school to go out of the way for IEPs,” Hood said. “They want everyone to be treated exactly the same, but that’s not what an IEP is. That’s not what an autistic student needs and the principal was providing exactly what the students needed.”

Two hours after Krakoff was suspended from his office, the Hood family received calls that their son was found with a note that mentioned murdering another student and needed to be picked up immediately. As they arrived to pick up their son, they discovered the “note” was an assignment done in class and several students’ handwriting was on the paper.

The assignment in question was given during a creative writing class where students were encouraged to write prompts for haikus for “whatever ran across your brain that day. It is unknown what prompted the discussion, but teachers permitted students to have their ideas include the topic of a fictional murder. Several students in the class allegedly used this prompt, naming people they knew or others in the class, and peer editing was done on each student’s paper.

At the time of the assignment, the teachers involved in the project said they did not believe there were any credible threats in these assignments and students were joking while proposing their ideas. According to one instructor, some of the students named in the assignment also proposed haikus about ways murder could occur to themselves.

While administrators said they would reach out to other parents by the end of Monday, the Hoods say this never happened, and their son was the only person suspended. They were told their son was unable to return to class until he had received a psychological evaluation.

“There were no secrets, the class was having a great time,” Robin Maria Hood said. “I believe there is a specific department within the school that made it into something that it wasn’t and has used it to target students and administration alike.”

Hood feels that the situation was poorly handled at this time. She says nobody was available to sign the form acknowledging her son was sent home because the CEO was “on the other line” at the time. She also said that her son has allegedly been facing bullying from a staff member at the school throughout the year, which may have contributed to the discrimination he faced.

When asking about their son later, Hood says that her family was told that the suspension was a mistake and he should not have been sent home. When they accused the school of discriminating against their son, Hood says that two hours later, nine other students were suspended “to cover themselves.”

“This is ridiculous and now my son, who has autism and ADHD, is not in school,” Hood said. “The principal is gone and we don’t have any answers. The board is ghosting us, so that’s the sentiment.”

The combined incidents prompted students and some staff to leave their lunch period Wednesday afternoon, showing solidarity with the students suspended and supporting their former principal. Several students reported that they could not leave the building after the initial group was let out, but the group outside remained respectful of this decision and continued their demonstration.

Throughout the protest, students urged each other to keep the area clean of litter and not disturb any vehicles in the parking lot. Several students also approached Hood’s parents, offering kind messages about their friend and classmate, describing him as a “pleasure” to interact with during school. Once their lunch period was over, students returned to the building to resume classes.

The previous Midland Borough School Board meeting minutes did not list an inclination to remove Krakoff, and the agenda for its upcoming May 13 meeting had not been posted as of Thursday afternoon. As this is a personnel issue, the school board may also decide to discuss these matters in an executive session.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: MITCS students support fired principal, suspended students

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