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Epic Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Sen. Ron Sharp

 

December 12, 2019

EPIC Charter Schools served state Sen. Ron Sharp with a defamation lawsuit Dec. 9, according to a press release from the public relations firm representing EPIC.

The press release said Sharp (R-Shawnee) “was given the opportunity to retract defamatory statements he has made – statements he has made with the full knowledge they were false and damaging. However, he has refused. Thus, EPIC’s governing board has been left with no other option than to move forward with legal proceedings to protect the school.”

The release does specify what the “defamatory statements” were, but appear to refer Sharp’s questions about how EPIC is calculating enrollment.

The lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma County District Court and follows EPIC’s governing board voting in a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19, to seek legal action against Sharp. 

The lawsuit describes “how Sharp was advised by two state agencies … that his assertions of specific fraudulent operations of EPIC were false,” the press release said. “Despite that guidance, Sharp decided to lie about the two state agencies’ guidance to him and proceeded with defaming EPIC by publishing false statements carried by numerous media outlets.”

Sharp has alleged for several months that EPIC has been inflating its enrollment to claim more state money for its operations, among other charges. He has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the accountability of EPIC and other charter schools, particularly online schools.

Sharp said Tuesday night that State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has asked the Attorney General’s office for an informal opinion “in regard to whether a brick and mortar charter school can use the virtual attendance policy.

“When the Epic Assistant Superintendent-communications, Shelly Hickman, emailed that its BLC (EPIC blended Charter School) only accommodated grades Prek-5 in FY 2017-18 and grades Pre-k -6 in FY 2018-19, however the Oklahoma State Department of Education provided an allocation of funds to grades Prek-12, it is the responsibility of a member of the Senate Education Sub Committee on Appropriation to asked the question, why were these funds provided when these students in grades 7-12 when they were not accommodated?

“The answer by Epic provided on July 11, 2019, it had counted under the BLC (aka: EPIC Blended Charter School) all of their students in Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties.

“All students in other counties were counted under its Epic Virtual Charter School.

“That only presented more questions, why move students from the virtual attendance policy (40 assignments completed in a quarter period (44 days) to brick and mortar charter school which attendance policy is 180 days or 1080 hours?

“The AG has that question now before him. And, what Epic wants me to do is to stop asking questions,” Sharp said.

 

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