Complaint to DPI alleges abuse at Shining Rock Classical Academy
A parent at Shining Rock Classical Academy has filed an official complaint about discipline at the school with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
The allegations, while disturbing, are not the first of such kind.
“A parent has filed a complaint with our office,” Ashley Baquero, director of the Office of Charter Schools at DPI, confirmed to The Smoky Mountain News. “The parent alleges that inappropriate discipline procedures have taken place and that the grievance process has not been followed, among other issues.”
Baquero said the parent has also contacted local law enforcement because the incidents allegedly involve the school resource officer, who is an officer of the Waynesville Police Department. Waynesville Police Chief David Adams did confirm that the parent had contacted him, but he denied the allegations.
The Office of Charter Schools does not have an investigatory arm, nor does it provide legal services. However, when a stakeholder has concerns that have not been resolved by the charter school’s board and/or administration, the office will try to facilitate the process to help parties resolve the matter.
According to Baquero, Shining Rock vehemently denies the allegations and has legal counsel involved. At this point in the process, the Office of Charter Schools at DPI is working to determine if and how the parent’s grievance was heard and whether the school followed its own policy. The Office of Charter Schools does have the ability to review policy violations.
The complaint asks that the Office of Charter Schools open an investigation into Joshua Morgan, head of school at SRCA, and asks that the parent be able to undergo the formal grievance process, which they allege has not been completed.
“Mr. Morgan has violated policy with my child and refuses to work toward resolution,” the complaint reads. “I have exhausted all means at school level. The SRCA board of directors did not offer a fair grievance process.”
The parent maintains that multiple people at the school have witnessed Morgan’s mishandling of children or have been on the receiving end of bullying or intimidation themselves but have not reported these instances because they are afraid of retaliation.
The parent alleges child abuse, both physical and emotional.
“Mr. Morgan drags children, yanks children, leaves marks on children’s wrists,” the complaint states. “[Morgan] mocks children, mimics children or plays sounds, like high pitch noises to autistic children in order to agitate them, punish them, disturb them.”
In the complaint, the parent says that they have written accounts of these reported abuses. The complaint goes on to say that the head of school withholds food from children and has students handcuffed by the SRO at the school.
The parent also states that they believe their family is now the target of retaliation. They have received cease and desist letters from the board’s attorney.
“Morgan has used methods of corporal punishment which are against school policy, meant to inflict harm,” the parent says in the complaint. “Systematic and frequent bullying and intimidation, against our school policy.”
At fault in the complaint is also the school’s board of directors, which the parent alleges did not follow the proper procedure for a grievance process when these concerns were brought to its attention.
This is not the first time that Shining Rock parents have alleged inappropriate disciplinary action by Josh Morgan. In 2019, Morgan was serving as the interim head of school and the school’s board of directors was considering him for the permanent position. At that time, SMN reported that a group of concerned parents did not want Morgan for the position because they thought he was “a bully with anger management issues who physically intimidates students and recently placed one in a martial arts hold.”
The reporting details allegations of bullying by Morgan toward students in the form of yelling and several instances of putting hands on students in an attempt to provide disciplinary action.
During an August meeting of the Shining Rock Board of Directors a former teacher at the school came to speak during public comment about her treatment while working at the school. Because members of the public are not allowed to name individual students or staff during their comment, the teacher did not name Morgan. However, when speaking with the Smoky Mountain News later, the teacher gave more insight into their complaints.
“During my time at Shining Rock, I felt as though there was no one available to issue a complaint against Josh Morgan or other superiors,” the teacher told SMN. “I felt the working environment was toxic and supported the spreading of gossip about both students and other staff members.”
This former teacher would not discuss Morgan’s specific treatment toward them. Despite having left Shining Rock, they are still worried about possible retaliation and a possible lawsuit from the school regarding any disclosures made.
“Mr. Morgan does not follow our discipline policy which states that we use restorative justice, love and logic,” the parent’s complaint to DPI reads.
Shining Rock Classical Academy in Haywood County did not meet growth standards for the 2021-22 school year. It received a C grade and 54.9% of students passed state exams, above the state average of 51.2%.