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Troubled school continues teaching despite losing charter, FBI investigation

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SUMTER, SC (WIS) -

A Midlands charter school that refuses to close its doors is now under federal investigation.

The state pulled Mary L. Dinkins School's charter months ago and ordered the school to close, but the school continues to operate.

Last fall SLED agents opened an investigation into the finances and the academics at the school. Part of that investigation is now in the hands of the FBI.

The school was supposed to close a year ago. But this morning, teachers, the principal, staffers and bus loads of students filed into the building. 

The state says this year could be a waste for many MLD students.

Reporter: "These children showed up here today to attend classes. There is no charter, they're not receiving state credit and, at this point, if they were to go into a public school..." Benita Dinkins-Robinson, MLD director: "They are. This is a school and they will receive credit."

Robinson says although she's lost her charter, MLD is still an organized school.

Students here have missed every state standardized test this year, and risk losing credit for an entire grade level, state charter school officials say.

Reporter: "Technically, is this a situation where it's as though they're not going to school at all, in the eyes of the state?" Dr. Wayne Brazell, SC Charter School District: "I think so."

Brazell heads the statewide charter school district and led the move to pull MLD's charter for misconduct he says his agency found there.

Brazell has worked to help MLD parents place their children in public schools, but he says more than half of those parents haven't acted. 

The district says MLD students and tax payers are paying a price now.

"They have no supervision right now," said Brazell. "There is no agency monitoring this school right now. They're not legally a private school, they're not legally a public school, so...it is concerning to us that kids are caught in no man's land right here."

Reporter: "Is MLD a state certified educational institution?" Robinson: "It's not. We are under appeal."

Brazell says he's never seen anything like what he's seen at MLD and says parents who are sending their children there should get them out.

Reporter: "What's your impression of the administration of that school at this point?" Brazell: "We're very concerned that some things are going on there. We think that school has not done the best for students academically, for the students that have attended that school."

The district has notified the City of Sumter City about MLD holding classes in a church building inside city limits.

As of this report our call to Sumter City Administrator Deron McCormick has not been returned.

It is unclear when SLED and the FBI will finish their investigations.

Robinson says she plans to open the doors again next school year.

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