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Tue Dec 3, 2019, 07:44 AM

A Harlem School That Former Students Say Is Run Like 'A Cult' Faces New Scrutiny

NEW YORK — Five years ago when Kaiya showed up for the first day of senior year at Atlah High School in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, she had barely made it in the building before an administrator told her to leave. She was told she had been expelled from the school.

But not because she had done anything wrong.

It turns out, she had merely offended the school’s leaders ― overseen by Superintendent James Manning, who is also the pastor of the church affiliated with the school ― by spending her summer break on a vacation with family, when school was out, instead of attending the graduation ceremony for the students a year above her.

And now, they were ready to ruin her life over it.

A HuffPost investigation published in April revealed that Atlah World Missionary Church ― designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center ― runs a K-12 private school where kids have been psychologically abused and systematically taught to fear LGBTQ people. The story was based on interviews with 27 people connected to the church and school, many of them former students with similar stories to Kaiya who said the institution was run like “a cult.”

HuffPost has spoken with nine more former students, former congregants and relatives of current church members. They have corroborated details of HuffPost’s initial report and contributed their own similar stories. They describe a pastor who harshly punishes students and promotes estrangement within families, at the same time running a private school that falsely bills itself as a high-tech, cutting-edge success.


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