Texas and Feds Crack Down on Alleged Houston Diploma Mills
The Office of the Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Wednesday in a press release obtained by Breitbart Texas that it obtained temporary restraining orders and froze the assets of two purported home school academies both allegedly claiming to be accredited educational institutions in Harris County (Houston).
In the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Abbott on behalf of the state of Texas, these actions were taken against the Houston-based Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy. The State's enforcement action also named the academies' directors and five related entities as defendants, according to a news release issued by the Attorney General's office.
The Office of the Attorney General's lawsuit against the two alleged Houston diploma mills was prompted by the Consumer Protection Division's review of approximately 100 consumer complaints received against these defendants. Page 17 of the lawsuit includes consumer complaints of feeling misled and cheated by the defendants.
The defendants were also charged with violating the Texas Education code defining home schooling as meaning "a student who predominantly receives instruction in a general elementary or secondary education program that is provided by the parent, or a person standing in parental authority, in or through the child's home."
Tim Lambert, President of the non-profit Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), the largest home school advocacy in Texas, was working with the Attorney General's office on this matter. Since 1990, Lambert has led THSC, which represents the interests of and advocates for the rights of parent who chose to home school their children.
According to the court documents filed in the District Court of Harris County on March 17, 2014 by the State of Texas, Lincoln and Brownstone academies offer two "fraudulent" online education products to customers nationwide: high school diplomas and General Education Development (GED) degrees. The release issued by Abbott's office also stated that the defendants marketed their education programs through online advertisements claiming that the academies were legitimate, nationally accredited home schools.
The lawsuit asserted that under Texas law, neither Lincoln nor Brownstone Academy qualified as a home school nor were they authorized to provide GED testing. In the State's investigation, it was uncovered that the alleged accreditor of school credentials--the National Home School Accreditation of America was not an "accrediting institution" but a website that the defendants created to confer an air of legitimacy to the so-called academies.
Also revealed in the state's investigation, Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy imposed no educational requirements on their students. "Customers simply paid fees starting at $299 and then took a series of exams that did not require a high school level of education to pass."
The defendants' programs required no coursework and provided no instruction, legitimate textbooks or reference materials according to the lawsuit. Students could start taking the test company tests immediately after paying the enrollment fee.
Given there was "nonexistent education," Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy degrees generally have not been accepted by community colleges, four-year universities, the military, law enforcement academies or employers, despite the defendants' misleading online claims according to the Attorney General's office.
Breitbart Texas spoke with Tim Lambert who said, in response to Attorney General Abbott's action, "I am gratified to see the action of the Texas AG's office in suing diploma mills who are not truly schools and provide no instruction and in fact often call themselves home schools to hide behind the hard work that the home school community has done over the last two and a half decades to change Texas laws to remove discrimination against home school graduates."
Lambert also told Breitbart Texas that over the years there has been a push to legislate certain educational issues. He was, however, quite pleased with how the Attorney General handled this matter.
Lambert said, "I have argued for several years against well-meaning legislators who were considering legislation to regulate private schools including home schools to deal with these diploma mills. I have argued all along that the solution is for the Texas AG's office to sue these entities for fraud."
For multiple alleged violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Business and Commerce Code's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, the State seeks civil penalties and restitution from the defendants. Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy bank accounts have been frozen and they are prohibited from accepting payments from students or promoting unlawful services. A temporary injunction hearing has been scheduled for March 31.
The list of defendants named in the State's enforcement action has been released. They are Lincoln Academy, National Home School Accreditation of America, High School Diploma Online, Charles J. Lubbat, David C. Lubbat, Catherine Lubbat, Nancy Lubbat, Momentum Group, LLC; Momentive Apps, LLC; Nyloc Enterprises, LLC; Rylex LLC d/b/a Brownstone Academy; Charles J. Lubbat, trustee; David C. Lubbat, trustree; and Constandi Lubbat, residents and/or entities doing business in Harris County.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom