Police arrested a Brooklyn school principal Tuesday after he allegedly beat a 7-year-old student in what he claimed was a form of corporal punishment.
Machael Spencer-Edwards, principal at P.S. 202 Ernest S. Jenkyns School in East New York, was arrested on charges of assault and acting in a manner injurious to a child in the March 13 incident.
Spencer-Edwards reportedly told police the child was acting in a manner that he didn't like, and was using corporal punishment to correct the behavior.
The boy's mother, Shema McKenzie, told News 4 Wednesday that the principal was angry that her son didn't take off his hoodie in the cafeteria. Spencer-Edwards and another teacher grabbed the boy, and the boy hit the teacher.
"I started to get crazy, I hit [the teacher]," said the boy. "Then [the principal] grabbed me, bring me into the staircase and kicked me, and I was crying."
Spencer-Edwards hit him and kicked him in the face and torso, the boy said.
The boy came home from school and told his mother, "Mommy, I don't want to go to that school no more," McKenzie said. "Mr. Edwards took me to the stairwell and hit me and kicked me."
"It was just terrifying to me. It was heartbreaking," said McKenzie, who said she kept questioning her son because it was so unbelievable.
Photos she said were taken that day show light bruising on the boy's belly. She said she could tell where her son was hit in the face because it was swollen.
McKenzie said she called police twice that day and was told to take it up with the school. She took her son to Brookdale Hospital later that night after he complained of stomach pains. Doctors confirmed his injuries indicated he'd been assaulted, and police officers again showed up there -- but they kept questioning whether it was the principal who hit him, asking if perhaps it was another student, McKenzie said.
School was closed for the snowstorm around the time, and by the time McKenzie and her husband went to sit down with the principal, he denied hitting the boy, she said.
"I told him, 'Mr. Edwards, you know, Hasheem is seven years old, he knows how to talk. He's not going to make something up like that, he says this is what you did to him,'" she said.
McKenzie said she let it go and didn't tell other parents, so when police called her Tuesday night to inform her the principal had been arrested, she was surprised. She doesn't know what changed or prompted the arrest more than a month later.
The mother says she's relieved.
"Justice has been served," she said. "I wasn't getting any help at first."
McKenzie said it was difficult sending her son back to school in the meantime, "but education comes first and he has to go to school."
Other parents at the school Wednesday told News 4 they liked the principal. One mother said the 7-year-old boy has hit others at school, including her own son.
"Mr. Edwards has been amazing to us, so we're really upset about this," said mother Isha Halloman.
Spencer-Edwards was arraigned Tuesday night and released. He's next scheduled to appear in court June 1. Attorney information wasn't immediately clear, and no one answered at his home.
A spokesman for the Department of Education says Spencer-Edwards has been removed from the school and reassigned away from students.
"This alleged behavior is deeply disturbing and has no place in our schools," said the DOE spokesman. "We are providing additional guidance and ongoing support to the school community."
A letter was sent home with parents informing them that Ingrid Mason would serve as interim acting principal.
Spencer-Edwards was the focus of a New York Post story last year when he excluded students from a Valentine's Day party because they weren't wearing pajamas. He reportedly told young children, "No pajamas, no party," leaving some third-graders in tears when he turned them away. Flyers sent home for the event also suggested a $2 donation from students.