Epic Charter Schools has made a nearly $29,000 payment to settle claims with three former teachers who sued the virtual school, alleging they were pressured to withdraw poor-performing students.
Epic, the state’s largest virtual school, denied the allegations.
A payment of $28,879.35 was made Oct. 14 to an attorney representing the school to settle claims with Shaunna Atchley, Jason Deskin and Ryan Aispuro, records show. The teachers’ lawsuits, filed against Epic in 2019, have been dismissed.
A fourth teacher, Noelle Waller, dropped her claim in November 2019 and was not included in the settlement.
When reached by phone Tuesday, Atchley and Deskin declined to comment; Atchley said the teachers signed non-disclosure agreements. Aispuro did not immediately return a voicemail message.
The teachers said Epic administrators pressured them to withdraw students based on the students’ academic aptitude, which was first reported by Oklahoma Watch in June 2019. If the students re-enrolled, they were considered part-year and no longer factored into the schools’ letter grades.
School administrators used Epic’s unusually large bonus payments — worth tens of thousands of dollars— to drive such decisions about student withdrawals and other academic choices involving students, according to the teachers’ legal filings. One teacher said truancy standards were strictly enforced for students who tested poorly but not for students who excelled.
The four former teachers say they were fired for pushing back against pressure to withdraw students and claimed the school owed them all or part of their bonus payment.
Jennifer Palmer has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2016 and covers education. Contact her at (405) 761-0093 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jpalmerOKC