IN CASE YOU missed it, last year, Kanye West founded a school. Yes, you read that right.

The controversial rapper — once hailed as a genius for his musical oeuvre, since criticised for a series of anti-Semitic, conspiracy-laden rants that raised questions about his mental health (he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder) — opened his private school, Donda Academy, in August 2021. Though he’s talked about wanting the children he shares with ex-wife Kim Kardashian to attend (he told Good Morning America, “I’m their dad. It has to be co-parenting. It’s not up to only the woman. Like, men have a choice also. Men’s voices matter”), it appears that they currently aren’t enrolled at the school.

The pivot from musician to school founder was an unexpected one for sure, but in recent days the tale has gone from bizarre to disturbing, as a number of former employees have levelled some fairly serious allegations against West regarding education, health and labour law violations.

Read on for all the details we know thus far about the controversy surrounding Kanye West and Donda Academy.

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What does the Donda Academy do?

Donda Academy is a private school in Southern California offering pre-K to 12th grade education for children — though as it’s not accredited, it means graduates might not have credits or diplomas that can be recognised by colleges, per The Cut.

In an interview with ABC News America, West referred to Donda as a “gospel school,” which appears to be reflected on the academy’s website, which features a quoted goal “to be a reflection of God’s glory in the world,” adding that “Donda students grow in their faith and community through daily all-school worship and celebration at Sunday Service”. The mission statement claims that: “Donda Academy prepares students to become the next generation of leaders, thinkers and innovators by providing them with a world-class education that includes a rigorous core curriculum, and an emphasis on sustainability, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving”.

The website also claims that there is a 10-to-one student-to-teacher ratio. The daily schedule consists of “full school worship; core classes of language arts, math and science; lunch and recess; enrichment courses including World Language, Visual Art, Film, Choir and Parkour”.

According to one of the recent lawsuits filed against the school, students and teachers are required to wear Yeezy-branded black clothing, and Nike and Adidas shoes are banned. In September of 2022, West told Good Morning America there were 82 students enrolled.

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How much does it cost to attend Donda Academy?

In October 2022, Forbes reported that tuition costs USD$15,000 per year, or roughly AUD$22,431.

“We are a tuition-based school. Everyone is welcome to apply regardless of financial situation. Financial aid and scholarships are available for students who qualify,” the school’s website reads.

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What is the Donda Academy controversy?

The controversy around Donda Academy is partly due to the school’s reportedly murky history. Not much is publicly known about the school, other than what limited information West has offered in interviews, along with what’s on the school website, and what has been claimed by former employees. This might be due to the NDAs that are reportedly signed by parents of students. A former employee of Donda Academy, Tamar Andrews, told Rolling Stone that parents were asked to sign an “informal agreement” when joining the school, which explains why information is under tight wraps.

The first public signs of tension occurred in October 2022, when Donda Academy was temporarily shut down in the wake of offensive comments made by West — including his anti-Semitic Tweet about “going death con 3 On Jewish People [sic]”, and his “White Lives Matter” slogan clothing shown at Paris fashion week. As a number of brands — including Adidas, Gap, and Foot Locker — cut ties with West, parents were allegedly notified that the school would close for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year. However, news that the school was reopening was communicated to parents mere hours later, in a strangely worded email.

“With the help of our parents and community, we are back and returning with a vengeance!” the email read, according to Page Six. “The children of Donda are going to change the world!”

More recently, since April of 2023, West has had a number of concerning (and frankly, bizarre) allegations levelled against him regarding alleged violations against health, education and safety. The claims were made by three ex-teachers and an ex-assistant principal, and were included in two lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, with one claiming wrongful termination and discrimination and another alleging breach of contract. Both plaintiffs behind the lawsuits say they were fired after raising said concerns.

There’s a lot to wade through, but we’ll summarise the main allegations for you.

Former assistant principle Isaiah Meadows claimed that windows had no glass in them, because West doesn’t “like glass”. Students were therefore left “exposed to the elements,” with the mesh curtains in place naturally doing little to keep out the cold. Meadows also claimed that at the school’s earlier iteration (named “Yeezy Christian Academy”), a skylight was also left glass-free due to West’s preferences, “allowing rain to fall directly inside, where water would soak into the floor, which would lead to a [mouldy] smell for the next few days”.

An April lawsuit filed by former teachers Cecilia Hailey and Chekarey Byers alleged racial discrimination. Both Hailey and Byers said they “were the only female African American teachers” and were “repeatedly improperly paid”. In their lawsuit, they also said that West was “afraid” of stairs, which meant that no classes were held on the school’s second floor, and that there were no janitorial staff as West didn’t “believe” in chemical cleaning products.


Hailey and Byers also alleged that the only food option provided for lunches was sushi, and that West spent USD$10,000 a week (approximately AUD$14,965) on it (was the team behind NOBU involved in the catering, or?) Students weren’t allowed to bring in external food or drinks (other than water), and forks, utensils and even lunch tables were banned — as were crosswords and puzzles. Despite the school’s focus on art, no artwork was allowed on the walls, and chairs were banned, leaving students to either stand or sit on foam cushions while teachers used stools.

But the allegations don’t stop there. Hailey and Byers claimed students weren’t allowed outside during the school day, with doors locked from the outside. They also said that the school’s rampant bullying issues were left undisciplined and unaddressed, with no system in place to support vulnerable students.

In former assistant principle Meadows’ suit, he also added that the school had no power for its first few months, with lessons taught under generator-powered commercial flood lamps. Timanii Meeks, another former teacher, added that she found a building at the school with electrical wires “sticking out”; and Meadows added that at the former Yeezy Christian Academy, an electrical fire occurred near a student area where wire was laying on the ground.

In response to the latest allegations, neither the school nor West have responded to requests for comment by a number of publications at the time of writing. In June 2023, a lawyer representing West filed a request for a judge to dismiss the lawsuits filed by ex-staff, saying: “None of it is true and the allegations do a disservice to the Donda Academy’s current staff and students and their parents who will attest to their positive experience”.

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