The leaders of New York City’s educational system should get a flunking grade for two recent incidents involving school discipline.
A nine-year-old boy was nearly suspended at a Staten Island school for playing with an action figure, a tiny toy with a two-inch gun. And in Queens a 12-year-old girl was led away in handcuffs after being arrested for doodling on her desk.
What’s going on? General craziness seems to have descended on our school system. In the first case, Patrick Timoney, 9, was accused -- outrageously -- of being a gun-slinger with a 2-inch toy gun.The young boy was escorted to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension.
The principal said she acted as she did because of The Board of Education’s zero tolerance policy on toy guns. Later, the principal called the mother and apologized. But Laura Timoney wasn’t accepting it. She said: “You don’t traumatize a child who loved to go to school……you don’t make him cry.”
And, in another bizarre situation, a 12-year-old Queens junior high school student, Alexa Gonzalez, was led away in handcuffs for doodling on her desk. Later, education officials said it was a mistake but the principal, according to Alexa’s mother, insisted the treatment of Alexa was in accordance with education policy.
She had to call the cops. What could they possibly have charged Alexa with, doodling in the first degree?
That’s not in the penal code, not yet anyway.
Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said: “This should be a wakeup call to the Mayor. I definitely think it was excessive for this girl to be handcuffed.”
Mayor Bloomberg campaigned long and hard to take over supervision of the schools. In line with the dictum laid down by Harry Truman, the buck stops with him and the Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein.
Are principals so traumatized by the newly designed, centralized school system that they commit such acts? The new public advocate, Bill de Blasio, should look into this situation. The parents of more than 1 million school children need some answers.