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Principal of acclaimed Connecticut charter school resigns after video shows him shoving a student
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Principal of acclaimed Connecticut charter school resigns after video shows him shoving a student

Students have complained about other harsh discipline

The principal of a nationally acclaimed charter school in New Haven, Connecticut, resigned hours after a news outlet published a video that shows him shoving a student in the back.

When did this happen?

The incident reportedly happened after Morgan Barth, the former leader of Achievement First Amistad High School, met with a student in his office in October. Barth initially told the charter school's board of directors he planned to resign over the incident at the end of the school year, the New Haven Independent reported.

In the video, Barth appears to grab the student's arm, yank it behind his back and shove him into a corner. Barth then repeatedly steps in front of the student and blocks him as he tries to pick up his backpack and walk down the hallway.

After the incident, the school allegedly continued harsh disciplinary practices such as taking students out of class to browbeat them. Some students were so demoralized by the treatment that they transferred out of the school, the Independent reported.

The timeline for Barth's departure was moved up this week when the New Haven Independent obtained a copy of the video of the shoving incident and published it Thursday. Another blow for the school came earlier in the week when an employee posted a Facebook video that criticized the working environment Barth allegedly created.

In 2016, students complained that the school seemed more like a prison. Students said they could land in detention for minor infractions such as "laughing, asking for a pencil, or wearing the wrong-colored socks," according to the report.

"It's clear that he could not be the leader of the school right now, given his actions and the feelings of the school community," Amanda Pinto, Achievement First's senior communications director, told the news outlet. "I think both of those things became clear to him."

The charter school began the search for a new principal in November after Barth was disciplined for manhandling the student.

Co-CEO and Superintendent Doug McCurry, Chief External Officer Fatimah Barker, and Regional Superintendent Amy D'Angelo are planning to meet with families and staff to address their concerns within a week, Pinto told the news outlet. Amistad's administration is also planning to meet with its students.

"This is about more than a leadership change. That is why you're seeing three leaders from the network come to meet with families and staff to engage them in discussion," Pinto said, the Independent reported. "There is more that needs to go on than just changing the leader, because that's not going to fix all the concerns that people have. These meetings will hopefully surface concerns to meet them head-on."

Not everyone is confident it will happen.

Steven Cotton, a behavioral specialist first raised questions about the Amistad High's disciplinary tactics, told the outlet he's happy Barth is out.

"He won't be able to intimidate or put his hands on anybody anytime soon," Cotton said.

But he wonders why Barth wasn't fired after the incident was first raised. He told charter school chain's leaders that he thought the ex-principal's behavior was "aggressive and almost violent."

"To me, that sounds like a typical Achievement First cover-up," Cotton told the New Haven Independent. "My question to them is if he was already going to leave and they were already looking for new leadership, why did you feel it was okay to keep him there for the rest of the year?

"If the video never came out, would you have let him stay around?" he continued. "It shows their way of thinking: This is the culture of your school, that you were willing to allow somebody to stay there for so long."

A principal from another Achievement First school will step in to simultaneously lead Amistad High until a permanent replacement is found, according to the report.

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