distance learning

Distance-Learning Program Accused of Being Sexist, Racist

La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Cuts ties with Acellus Academy. Grossmont Union High School District stays the course.

NBC Universal, Inc.

While the La Mesa Spring Valley School District is cutting ties with a distance learning platform due to concerns about what some are saying is inappropriate content, the Grossmont Union High School District will continue to use the online program.

The controversy began with an on-line petition in Hawaii asking schools to stop using the program from Acellus Academy, based in Kansas City, Missouri.

La Mesa Spring Valley School District Assistant Superintendent Deann Ragsdale said Monday that the district had used Acellus for its home school program for two years with no complaints. In fact, the district was about to expand the program for the use of all students when it heard about the concerns in Hawaii.

“Two days before school started, we read an article published out of Hawaii with content concerns about the program, so we immediately contacted the company,” Ragsdale said. "They said that if there was other material that was found to be offensive, they would remove it. That felt reactive and not proactive and that's not good enough for us.”

The superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District, Theresa Kemper, said the district started using Acellus last year for students who needed to retake classes and never received any complaints. The district said it will continue to use the program for the nearly 2,000 students who need to re-take classes. In Grossmont's case, the district contacted the company after hearing the concerns and was satisfied.

“They've reviewed our content to make sure it's appropriate for high school students," Kemper said. "We are in the process of continuing to review courses that we’re using from them, and if we run into any issues, we will make changes as necessary.”

NBC 7 contacted Acellus for a comment for this story but did not hear back. The company's chairman, however, posted a video on Facebook on Sept. 1 connected to the criticisms of Acellus.  

“There’s a lot of disinformation going on about how we feel about diversity,” Roger Billings said in the video.

Billing also said some people have posted screen grabs attributed to Acellus’ content that are not part of the learning system: “They are not ours.”

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