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At what cost is a “Private” Education

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 By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.

(From  left to right) Brent Maffet, Attorney Sue Ann Robinson, Attorney Ben Crump, Angela Cross and Cyrus Nance.

      A prestigious  South Florida prep school, American Heritage,  is a private college /preparatory, independent school. According to their web site, there are two 40-acre campuses–one in Plantation (a suburb of Fort Lauderdale in Broward County), and one in Boca Raton/Delray (in Palm Beach County), Florida. The Plantation school finds itself in the middle of a hornet’s nest due to a disagreement over the expulsion of a Black basketball student, Cyrus Nance.

Nance’s dismissal at American Heritage School is initiating barbarity, pushing Nance’s mother to file a discrimination lawsuit.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, Angela Cross and her son Cyrus Nance spoke with the media about a possible case against American Heritage High School for discriminating against Nance, who was expelled allegedly  without due process.

Massasi, Zarie Wade, Dahveon Morris and Cyrus Nance.

The discrimination case has gained the backing of Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union. Nance, an accomplished basketball player and a good student, could have a promising future as his family and friends would tell you. Wade’s son, Zaire Wade, reportedly also had problems with

President and Founder William R. Laurie, M. Ed. and Cyrus Nance.

that same coach.

“The girls’ basketball coach stormed over and yelled at these young men of color for being on the court while simultaneously  using inappropriate language,” Crump said.

Nance’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, says discrimination was involved in the expulsion.

Nance, who was a student/athlete at the Plantation site, was expelled last month after a verbal exchange with that coach. It was stated at the press conference that Nance and some teammates were playing basketball during a break in a girl’s team practice in mid-November. Greg Farias, the coach of the girl’s team, according to Nance’s attorney, approached the group in an aggressive manner while cursing them at the same time and telling them to leave. Nance, who in retaliation did use profanity,  was removed from campus on a golf cart, then summarily expelled the next day. Farias, who is white, was not disciplined, Crump said.

Once off campus, Nance called his mother. “When I received the call from my son, I immediately panicked because I heard the distortion in his voice. So I then hurriedly left my job in  Deerfield Beach, heading immediately to the  Plantation campus. When I reached the school, they did not allow me on the campus and asked to retrieve the keys and badge that I used in order to put in work hours. This has been the most embarrassing, overwhelming experience of our lives. I thought so highly of American Heritage and would not have imagined that they would go to this magnitude.”

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and his wife, acclaimed actress Gabrielle Union, are supporting hardworking civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump in their resolve to help their family friend get back into school.

In a statement released by Wade and Union through their attorney, Sue Ann Robertson : “We believe in due process. We believe in transparency on the path to Justice. We believe that adults should be held to a higher standard than the children whose lives they are shaping. When a school employee harassed our children and it was recorded on video, that school employee got the due process he deserved. This same school employee had an interaction with another student, Cyrus, who happens to be a family friend.”

Zaire Wade, Dwyane’s oldest son, and Dahveon Morris, Dwyane’s nephew, whom he is raising, are Nance’s friends and teammates. Nance said Morris was present during the verbal exchange between Nance and Farias.

An attorney for the school, Eric Schwartzreich, said in a statement that the allegations of discrimination are “entirely untrue” and that Nance did “more than using profanity toward a coach.”

“American Heritage will not publicly discuss any student’s discipline, given its respect for a student’s privacy and confidentiality over such matters. However, the student handbook published to parents and students makes clear that any student who uses profanity at staff members or faculty will be expelled. The school consistently applies this guideline,” Schwartzreich said in the statement.

Crump says “every fact in this case points to discrimination” and that the expulsion was extreme. Nance would like to return to school.

Wade and Union’s statement continues, “He transferred to American Heritage in his senior year on a work-study scholarship to better prepare for college. His mother put her son’s future in the hands of American Heritage with the hopes that they would better serve his future. According to the school, there is available video of this interaction which we, along with his mother, have been asking to see for over a month. The school is refusing to release the video and continues to hold Cyrus‘s transcript until his mother pays a fee and signs and non-disclosure agreement(NDA).”

“These allegations against the school are entirely untrue,” said Eric Schwartzreich, an attorney for American Heritage High School. “A full investigation was done in this matter, including review of a video of the incident, and the evidence clearly supported the school’s disciplinary action which involved more than using profanity toward a coach.” Schwartzreich said the allegations of racial discrimination are unfounded.

“I just don’t understand why. If a person is for the children, then, he’s a child. Who are you for?” said Cross.

School policy states that expulsion is the “most severe” penalty at American Heritage, and that the administration has zero tolerance for the use of “profanity and/or obscenity directed at faculty or staff members in any language.”

Brent Maffett, a former American Heritage coach — who stood and is standing with Crump, Nance and Nance’s mother, Angela Cross, — disputed that.

“I’ve seen it on the campus in different sports and in different situations,” Maffett said.

“But, again, everything was handled case by case. There was nothing ever consistent with it.”

“Give due process to this kid, be transparent, show the videotape,” Crump said. “If he did something wrong, then let us see it. His teammates say he didn’t do anything at all more egregious than what the basketball coach did to them.”

Cross has made sacrifices in order for her son to attend the private school. She decided to work there, taking a job at the school with the cleaning staff for which salary earned was directed towards the scholarship for her son in order for him to receive a better education and a chance to fulfill his dreams. Ms. Cross was deeply offended and humiliated when this occurred.  I don’t wish this on anyone. I struggle every day to supply my son’s needs as single mother. My advice to anyone looking for private school setting is to make sure that you fully look into every avenue and the entire background before considering. I have to look out for his future,” Cross said. “Me.”

“Our school is proud of its diverse student body and the steps that we take to help students learn to become responsible adults, both in preparing them for college or any career they may pursue,” Schwartzreich said.

Wade and Union say they will stand by Nance until he and his mother “get the transparent due process” that they seek.

Crump has not filed a lawsuit on Nance’s behalf but noted that is the next step. Schwartzreich said the school is prepared to defend itself in court.

Through tears Cross said, “He was like, ‘Mom, I’m gonna make you proud.’”

“Every fact in this case points to discrimination. Discrimination against a vulnerable single mother who the school might have believed had no resources to fight this injustice, a wrong that could very well have a lasting negative effect on Cyrus,” Crump said. “The school has already stolen four weeks of his education. The time has come for justice for Cyrus, to restore his hope for a bright and successful future.”

According to Schwartzreich, the attorney for American Heritage, the school is ranked highly for its diverse student body at both its campuses in Plantation and Delray Beach. “We treat every student the same, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status,” he said. “We will not apologize for upholding our standards and will be fully prepared to defend any claims in court if necessary.”

Crump says the school is refusing to release Nance’s transcript, and share a video of the incident without an NDA, which Crump referred to as a form of extortion.

How does this hold to truth as it pertains to Nance?

Nance’s value as a college recruit has fallen with this mark on his record according to Maffett, because he was expelled after the November transfer deadline, Nance would be ineligible to play at another area school because he was expelled after the November transferee deadline. Maffett said.

“It’s all about character when you’re talking about college and playing at the next level,” he said. “Coaches don’t want to deal with headaches. They want good kids. They want to have good kids coming into their program.”

Wade and Union: “Our family believes in getting to the truth with effective, timely communication,” their statement reads. “Unfortunately, this has not been the case and we refuse to stand by and allow a bright Black child with a bright future to be seen as disposable. He is not.”

Fighting back tears Ms. Cross said, “After this has happened I noticed that Cyrus has been very stressed and just says he doesn’t understand why they would  do this to him. He said all he wanted to do was finish school strong, play his last season out there and looked forward to make me (mom) proud.”

Crump termed Nance’s punishment extreme and possibly discriminatory, and he called on American Heritage to reinstate Nance. He said litigation is a logical next step if his demands fall on deaf ears.

 

 

 

 

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