I-Team: Teachers Say They Are Being Put in Harm's Way in Unsafe School

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    NEWSLETTERS

    School administrators are putting teachers in harm's way by turning a blind eye on troubled teens, seven teachers at one Bronx school allege. Jonathan Vigliotti reports (Published Friday, Dec 6, 2013)

    School administrators are putting teachers in harm's way by turning a blind eye on troubled teens, seven teachers at one Bronx school allege.

    Reinaldo Felix, a teacher at Wings Academy in the Bronx, told NBC 4 New York the simmering problem came to a full boil when he was attacked by students on Nov. 6 while overseeing detention.

    "I was told to take her into the dean’s office," said Felix, recounting the coordinated attack. "I noticed her texting on her phone but before I could say something a bunch of kids started prying the door open. It was like a jail break."

    Felix, an art teacher whose 20 years experience include five years at Wings Academy, says he called school security and the NYPD but the police ended up responding before school security guards did. The NYPD filed a report, which describes Felix being punched in the face by a female student. Several other teens then pinned him down, kicking him in the side, he said.

    "I've been back and forth to the DA's office and the doctor," Felix said. "My spine has been fractured. My jaw was cracked."

    The Department of Education has what officials call an “occurrence report” on file.

    Felix says school administrators are not taking any action, refusing to discipline the students and guards who he says failed to help him. So he has filed assault charges against three students, and now has an order of protection against them. Two of the three were allowed back to class just days after the attack.

    Felix says the administrators don't want to suspend students because it will reflect poorly on the school's reputation.

    "There is a new unspoken rule to not suspend children, regardless of the crime," Felix said. "That way, at the end of the year, this school will look safer than it really is. Every teacher knows it."

    Another teacher at the school backed up Felix's claim, saying it's "absolutely" true.

    "The principal is new and she doesn't want it getting out how unsafe the school is," said Nucian Butler, a biology teacher.

    Butler is among seven teachers who told NBC 4 New York that administrators are putting teachers in jeopardy by not holding troubled teens accountable.

    The school's principal, Lorraine Gutierrez, declined comment. The DOE said it was probing the matter.

    "We are currently in the middle of a full investigation," the DOE said in a statement. "Any case of violence is taken very, very seriously, and if the allegations prove true, there will be significant repercussions."
     

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