Brittany Wagner

The Post-Dispatch published a heart-wrenching story yesterday about a family trapped in the Normandy school district. The Harpers have two daughters— seventh-grader Keiara and her older sister Shannon, who attended Ladue High School via the transfer program for the past two years.

Shannon won’t be returning to Ladue next year, and despite having post-traumatic stress disorder from being severely bullied in sixth grade, Keiara will not be allowed to transfer either. Of the 679 students who applied to transfer, only 564 were approved. According to the story, the Harpers were denied, because of the confusing, byzantine process by which families have to demonstrate their eligibility for the program.

The Post-Dispatch reported:

The district has no record of the Harpers’ applying for Shannon to stay in Ladue or for Keiara to leave, said Cindy Gibson, the spokeswoman for the Normandy School District. Diane Harper says she filled out the paperwork for Shannon to stay in Ladue and submitted a mortgage payment and utility bill in January as proof of residency, weeks before the deadline. She said she was unaware of an application deadline for transferring Keiara until she contacted district staff in the spring and was told it was too late.

“Something’s got to happen,” said Robert Harper, sitting in a chair beside his daughters in their home near North Hanley Road. “I’m not going to send my kids there. I’m just not.”

Now, it’s impossible for us to know whether or not the Harpers actually followed the procedure as they said they did. What we do know is that this family should not have to jump through so many hoops to make sure their daughters receive a quality education.

Keaira and Shannon, and many students like them, need more options. Last week, the Show Me Institute hosted former Oklahoma State Senator Jabar Shumate, who spoke about the Sooner State’s efforts to expand school choice. I encourage you to watch my interview with him. While it might be too late for the Harpers this year, we can work to create more and better options for families zoned for failing schools.


About the Author

Brittany Wagner
Education Policy Research Assistant

Brittany Wagner was an education policy research assistant at the Show-Me Institute.