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Torchlight Academy

North Carolina K-8 charter school accused of falsifying student records

Dec. 15, 2021
Torchlight Academy has been accused of “grossly negligent administrative oversight” of its exceptional children's program.

Torchlight Academy, a K-8 charter school in Raleigh, N.C., has been accused of falsifying the records of some special education students. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has found grossly negligent administrative oversight of Torchlight's exceptional children’s program, including alteration and falsification of records of some special-needs students, reports The Raleigh News & Observer

The recommendation for disciplinary action was made last week by the state's Charter Schools Advisory Board, a group of charter school leaders that advise the State Board of Education.

Torchlight’s leaders had asked the advisory board for leniency given its history of helping to educate low-income and minority students since 1999.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to put Torchlight on probation; that would trigger a 30-day window to fix the school's problems or risk revocation of its charter.

Torchlight's problems surfaced during a routine February 2020 compliance visit, when state officials found numerous deficiencies in the services required under federal law for special-education students.

The school was given until April 2021 to fix the problems, but the state says many of those problems remain unresolved.

As an example, dates and grades for old Individualized Education Programs were altered to make them appear to be current plans for some Torchlight students.

Sherry Thomas, director of the Department of Public Instruction's exceptional children’s division, said the altered records prompted an unannounced visit to Torchlight in September 2021 that discovered more problems.

Other reasons the advisory board has cited in recommending probation for Torchlight:

  • Failure to properly implement the Individualized Education Program process as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.
  • Failure to provide access to student and finance records. Lack of qualified staff.
  • Falsely reporting staff’s compliance with Every Child Accountability and Tracking System training.
  • Failure to provide requested documentation.

Torchlight has about 600 elementary and middle school students. 

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