On VIB (Visitor in Building) days, at least one KIPP school puts up to 30 problem students in the empty basement for hours until the visiting investors, dignitaries, or politicians have left the building. Also during this time, no class changes occur, even though visits might last three hours. Children are, in essence, in lockdown mode in their classrooms so that no infraction or non-compliant behavior during class change may be seen by outsiders.
During a recent interview with a former KIPP teacher, we had this exchange:
JH: And what do you see as swept under the rug?
TEACHER: You know, there’s just cultural things like, I can only speak to what I experienced in my day-to-day, and so that was a lot of yelling, a lot of berating students, a lot of, you know, physically confronting students.
We used to have a special schedule when we had visitors in the building. For instance, sometimes we’d have, you know, investors or big-wigs walking through the building. And so we would have a separate schedule where we would pick out all the behavior issue kids and take them down into the basement for the duration of the visitors’ visit, to kind of keep them out of the way. So you know, that’s one very, like, clear example of sweeping something under the rug.
JH: Can you tell me how that worked?
TEACHER: Yeah. So in the morning, we would receive an email or a special schedule that said VIB schedule, Visitor in Building schedule. And it would basically list all of the students that needed to be in the basement area, and it would tell us the specific times that they were supposed to be there. And we would also, for instance, we would not transition from class to class if there was a visitor, because the transitions from class to class would sometimes be, you know, kids are kids, and so they would sometimes not listen, or they would run, or whatever the case is. And our administration didn’t want the visitors to see anything less than perfection. And so we would hold students in the classroom when normally they’d be transitioning from class to class. So the visitors didn’t get the impression that the school was anything less than very well managed.
INTERVIEWER: Right. So what was in the basement? What did the students do in the basement?
TEACHER: That’s a great question. I never, fortunately I guess, was never in charge of managing those students. But in the basement, what was down there was just, you know, there was basically nothing. I mean, there was a carpeted area. And I don’t know what they did down there, to be honest.
JH: And how many students were sent down there?
TEACHER: I believe our school had about 300 students when I was there. And it probably, you know, less than 30.
JH: And these students were selected how? Based on what?
TEACHER: From my impression, it was that they were, based on their behavior. So if they were a student that acted out frequently, they would be sent down into the basement for the duration of the visitor’s stay.
JH: OK, so these were called Visitor in Building days? VIB?
TEACHER: Yeah, VIB schedule.
JH: OK. And what was the longest time that you remember staying in a class, that you weren’t allowed to switch?
TEACHER: Two or three hours, depending on the visitors and how long they would be there.