ESCONDIDO — Dozens of current and former students of The Classical Academies, a publicly funded charter school organization, have recently come forward with stories of discrimination they experienced while in school.
The Classical Academies is a public charter school organization with campuses throughout North County. The organization has been around since 1999.
In early July, an Instagram account called “Discrimination @TCA” (@discrimination.at.tca) appeared and began posting anonymous experiences of discrimination from current and former students of The Classical Academies. The account also includes posts from students alleging sexual harassment, body shaming, bullying and a lack of adequate counseling resources among other issues experienced in the school.
Many of the posts claim that students were openly racist and homophobic yet were not punished for their actions.
“At my time at CAHS (Classical Academy High School) I witnessed several white students use the n-word,” one post reads. “When asked to stop, they said it was too fun to stop and that they enjoyed saying it.”
In the same post, the former student explains they were afraid to tell the administration what they witnessed at the time. When the student finally did reach out, they were disappointed by the response.
Some posts also claim that the school administration is homophobic and often censors topics involving the LGBTQIA+ community.
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One post alleges that after a student told a story about coming out of the closet during an assembly, the school administration sent out a letter to CAHS families that the speech should have never happened.
Another post came from a current student who was part of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance student club.
“We had two pride flags stored in the club room, and would pull them our during meetings,” the post reads. “One day, we came in and found both of the flags were in the trash.”
Anzy Adams, a former student who graduated from CAHS in 2013, said the school reinforced conservative standards and beliefs even though it is a publicly funded charter school without any religious affiliation.
According to Adams, racism, sexism and homophobia were pervasive at the school.
“There is a general culture of homophobia, sexism and racism that all high schools struggle with to a degree, but at Classical in particular it felt like a lot of this behavior went excused,” Adams said.
Adams also said students were often ostracized for not going to church or for being a newcomer to the school.
She noted that many of the students who go to TCA attend North Coast Church. A similar Instagram account called “North Coast Church Abuse” (@northcoastchurchabuse) recently began posting experiences of abuse at the church as well.
Adams frequently butted heads with the TCA administration.
“I was told on multiple occasions that political activism on campus could be a distraction,” Adams said.
Adams and several posts on the Instagram account also criticized the TCA student body and faculty for being mostly white.
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The person who created Discrimination @TCA (D@TCA) said they grew up in the TCA school system and also experienced discrimination while attending the school.
“Although I am a minority student, I was ignorant of any discrimination until high school,” the account holder, who wishes not to be named, told The Coast News. “I realized how lonely I felt with how few students looked like me, and how often I was asked things like ‘Who were your parents?’”
The account holder also recalled hearing a student talk openly about how “gross” gay relationships were.
According to the account holder, D@TCA has only been up a few weeks yet has heard from nearly 200 people including current and former students, parents and faculty. More than half of the stories have yet to be posted.
The account holder said they created D@TCA after hearing about the Instagram account called “Black in PUSD” (@blackinpusd), which shares stories of racism in the Poway Unified School District.
“I talked with some friends from Poway and we had a long discussion of what to do and how to improve,” the D@TCA account holder said. “I then realized that Classical needed an awakening like that.”
TCA is aware of the Instagram account and has chosen not to engage with the account “so that students sharing anonymously do not feel attacked or marginalized again,” said Communications Officer Michelle Stanley via email.
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“We deeply regret any student who felt marginalized or unloved while in their time with us,” Stanley said. “These situations call for us to look deeply at our interactions to improve where needed and be better as an educational organization moving forward.”
In many of the posts on the Instagram account, many of the students felt out of place in the school. Adams agreed with that sentiment.
“I just felt really misunderstood during the four years I was there, and that’s what other people felt like,” Adams said.
Stanley said TCA wants its students to “advocate their needs so that caring adults can be a source of support.”
There are several stories of sexual harassment and assault that are shared on the Instagram account. One alleged that after a student reported an assault from another student, that other student got a “gentle warning” from the school.
According to Stanley, the school has “strict policies” that “promote equality and access for all.” It also has policies in place to address sexual harassment and assault.
“In the event that harassment or assault would occur, we would swiftly contact local authorities and launch an official investigation,” Stanley said.
The school also has an “extensive” counseling team accessible to students. Stanley said the school organization has made a “significant investment in the social and emotional needs of students” over the last decade.
Stanley also confirmed that the school does not have any religious affiliations and does not try to censor its students.
“As American’s (sic), our students know that they have freedom of speech rights and no efforts are made by employees at The Classical Academies to limit or curtail student voices in a manner that would impede those rights,” Stanley said. “When it comes to distraction and disruption, we expect that all students will be kind and treat others well.”