Reality television has nothing on modern day school scams.
In 2011, Daniel Hicks created a fake school, ostensibly a boarding school, West Virginia Prep, which somehow “enrolled” over 20 athletes who were actually living in an unfurnished apartment.
The April 05, 2017, Charleston Gazette reported that Hicks “lured students …from around the world to attend a school that didn’t exist.” Hicks told prospective recruits that the school would provide opportunities not only to play basketball and football but also to vie for postsecondary basketball and football scholarships.
The players never saw the inside of a classroom. When student-athletes began arriving from France, Great Britain and several U.S. states, 17 of them were housed in a three-bedroom apartment with meager food and troublesome air conditioning, according to city officials, players and police.
Also, according to the Gazette, “West Virginia law allows anyone to organize a prep school, with minimal oversight or regulation by state authorities.”
The 2011 USA Today article confirms this:
West Virginia Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said as a exemption K school, West Virginia Prep Academy did the required paperwork and no background checks were performed on Hicks or on any possible teachers at the school.
“Under the law, all they have to do is send us a letter-of-intent, which has an explanation of who they are, where the school is to be located and contact information,” Cordeiro said. “On the back end, the schools have to send us their testing data....”
Student safety takes a complete back seat to self-regulation. Good test scores “on the back end” are what matters.
The Gazette states that in 2010, Hicks had been convicted on drug charges. USA Today notes Hicks’ parole violation in relation to a January  narcotics conviction– which appears to be the inroad to investigation of Hicks’ “school.”
The Gazette also indicates that in June 2016, Hicks pleaded guilty to heroin charges.
On April 05, 2017, US District Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced Hicks to 17 months for heroin distribution and one additional month for “making a false statement to a federal investigator during an investigation,” a felony charge “filed by way of information.”
Once Hicks serves his sentence, he will be under an additional three years of federal supervision.
The false statement was that Hicks told federal investigators that he made no money from his prep school scheme.
Previous charges of mail and wire fraud had been dropped when Hicks agreed to work with federal prosecutors.
According to the Gazette, Judge Thomas seemed to believe that Hicks had “good intentions” in trying to start a school:
“I understand you were probably intending to help young people. Obviously, that has gone wrong. … I don’t know if it started out as a fraud. …But it turned out a disaster.”
Of course, a key component of that disaster is the fact that Hicks could go as far as he did with luring students to an unfurnished apartment– and with a prior drug conviction, to boot.
Good intentions are irrelevant.
Vetted competence. That’s what is relevant.
Slightly longer version originally posted 04-09-17 at deutsch29.wordpress.com.
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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.