Mayor Fenty Plays Hardball With Youth Programs

ULTRA Teen Choice has received a letter from both Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Fenty confirming that we have been banned from DC Public Schools, where we had been providing services to the DC Public Schools for some 10 years at little or no cost to the school system.  On July 28th, Mayor Fenty played hardball with another youth program, the Washington East of the River Academy, founded by Council member Marion Barry.

The question arises if the Mayor is serving the best interests of the citizens and youth of Washington, DC, or if there are other agendas that the Mayor is promoting.  ULTRA Teen Choice, which had previously operated with the approval of DC Public School officials was deemed to not comply with Chancellor Rhee’s’ agenda of promoting “diversity”.  Rhee administration officials Richard Nyankori and Chad Ferguson told me that since I opposed the standards that introduced discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation beginning in 6th grade, that our program would not be approved.  They said that if I continued to circulate a petition promoting the teaching of sexual abstinence and not talking about gender identity and sexual orientation issues starting in middle school, that I could go ahead, but there would be the consequence of being blocked form working in DC public schools. 

Michelle Rhee confirmed that policy in letters that she sent to me.  After seemingly relenting to allow the program to continue, Rhee then said that the rules had not been followed, although the rules were changed after our meeting with Richard Nyankori, and the letter that Ms. Rhee sent incorrectly stated the facts of the case.  (see ultrateen for the letter and our response).

With the Washington East of the River Academy, after Councilmember Barry held a press conference complaining about thousand of summer youth employees not getting paid correctly, then the Mayor moved to shut down the program on Thursday, July 24th.  Students were sent a letter to come to the DC Armory on Friday, July 25th.  When that did not produce the desired results of having most of the youth sign up for other sites, then the Mayor’s office moved to evict the program from PR Harris School in Southeast.  The director was threatened with arrest if she did not vacate.

The actions of the Mayor are clearly vindictive.  If there are issues with any site, then you would discus those issues and see if they can be worked out.  ULTRA Teen Choice requested a meeting with the mayor, and we never got any meting with him or even any staff person.  The actions at Washington East of the River Academy indicate a similar mode of operation; if you don’t follow my agenda, you are out. 

The mayor’s policy seems to be:  carry out the agenda first, and make up reasons later.  The mayor’s process for choosing the school chancellor certainly was not open and transparent.  The proposal to eliminate review of the school budget is another example of lack of accountability and transparency.  In the case of ULTRA Teen Choice, we were informed by the Chancellor’s office that there is a moratorium on outside health providers, yet that is not true.  In the case of East of the River Academy, when youth did not sign up at Friday’s meeting at the Armory, the mayor moved to shut down the site, even though the site itself is not funded by the Department of Employment Services.  The mayor’s policy seems to be:  ‘If one tactic of obstruction does not work, let’s come up with another one.’

We need to wake up to the fact that we have a Mayor that is willing to put special interests and agendas ahead of the welfare of the youth and adults of Washington, DC