Sumter County schools under state probe for allegedly hiding low-performing students in 'shell schools'

A sign outside the Sumter County School Board boasts of it being an "A-rated district." However, a letter from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) said the district is now under investigation for allegedly taking underperforming students and moving them to so-called "shell schools." 

Parents outside Bushnell Elementary School said the allegations were disappointing.

"Obviously, that wouldn't be good, that wouldn't be honest. That would be concerning," said parent Mike Brown.

According to a letter from the state, the practice of moving low-performing students to "shell schools" allegedly started around the 2016-2017 school year. It said this was done to remove the students' statewide assessment results from calculating school grades.


It states that the FLDOE has determined that the district "is unable to investigate these allegations with the level of independence necessary to instill public confidence in the transparency and outcome of the investigation," so the state will launch a probe.

We reached out to the district for comments. 

It said in a statement, "We welcome DOE to our district. Any accusations of impropriety are unfounded, which will be evident upon completion of the DOE review of actions almost a decade old. Our search into these ancient allegations versus review of the actual facts lead us to unequivocally state the district will be totally exonerated. The allegations are ludicrous and timing of the complaint is suspect to say the least."

FOX 35 News contacted the Florida Department of Education for more information. It said it doesn't comment on pending investigations. 

Parents said that if true, it was unfair to the students who switched schools.

"Moving them isn't the answer," said Sumter County parent Melinda Clemens; "helping them is the answer."