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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Lax discipline, bullying, chaos and death

A “once safe and supportive” New York City school “fell into chaos as new administrators implemented a supposedly more positive approach to school discipline,” writes Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute,  on The 74. Disorder led to bullying — and death.

Abel Cedeno was arrested in 2017 for the fatal stabbing of a classmate and now faces manslaughter charges Cedeno, now 19, said he was bullied for being bisexual. Photo: Go Nakamura/New York Daily News

“On Sept. 27,  2017, someone in history class threw a paper ball at Abel Cedeno, an 18-year-old senior who . . . had been bullied for his sexuality,” he writes. Cedeno pulled out a switchblade and stabbed two classmates at Urban Affairs Wildlife. Matthew McCree, 15, died.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged in his campaign to put “city schools at the vanguard of a nationwide movement to unwind traditional discipline in favor of a new progressive, or restorative, approach,” writes Eden.

At UA Wildlife, meaningful consequences for misbehavior were eliminated, alternative approaches failed, and administrators responded to a rising tide of disorder and violence by sweeping the evidence under the rug, students and teachers said.

In the 2013-14 NYC School Survey, 86 percent of UA Wildlife “teachers said order and discipline were maintained and 80 percent of students said they felt safe in the hallway,” writes Eden. By the 2016-17 survey, the founding principal and most of the old faculty had left. “Only 19 percent of teachers said order was maintained and only 55 percent of students said they felt safe.”

In the 2014-15 school year, a probationary principal, Latir Primus, took over. He lowered suspension rates by not enforcing rules, a former teacher told Eden.

According to the (staff) handbook, before referring a student to the dean, “the following documentation must be included: Student Misconduct Form, Family Telephone Log, Intervention Log, Witness Statements.” . .  . The staff handbook “defines the order in which staff should address these issues: 1. Teacher, Student; 2. Teacher, Student, Advisor (Dean If Appropriate); 3. Advisor, Dean, Parent, Student; 4. Guidance Counselor, Dean, Parent, Student (In Certain Cases); 5. Assistant Principal, Parent, Student; 6. Principal, Parent, Student.” Furthermore, “Before any referral is made, the teacher should have followed the step [sic] below: Intervention Strategies, Conference with Students, Warnings, Called parent/guardian, Conference with parent/guardian.” For all these matters, “teachers MUST have the appropriate documentation. Teachers should be keeping anecdotal [records] on a regular basis, telephone logs, parental conference logs, intervention forms, and all other relevant documentation.”

Midway through the 2015-16 school year, Primus was replaced as principal by Astrid Jacobo. Things got much worse, former teachers told Eden.

“I remember one time, this was right when she started,” said a former STEM teacher I’m calling Mr. Garcia. “There was one student who was cursing in the hallway. Jacobo comes up very calmly, puts her hand on her shoulder, and says, ‘We don’t curse in this school.’ The girl yanked her shoulder away saying, ‘Get off me, bitch.’ She did that. Fine. What’s the result? Nothing. She didn’t get detention. Nothing.”

More teachers quit. New teachers got little support, writes Eden. He cites logs from 2016-17.

? Log 14873: “Today [name redacted] came into my class during a class that wasn’t his and smacked me in my face very hard.” ? Log 18220: “When I went to change the power point [name redacted] told me to not change ‘the f***ing slide’ and that is [sic] I did change the f***ing slide she would ‘f***ing slap me on the side of my f***ing head.’ ” ? Log 17119: “[Name redacted] was asked to put away his phone and do his work. He then proceeded to threaten Rudolph and myself. He informed us that we were ‘c***-sucking assholes’ and that I will beat the f*** out of you two on the last day of school. Threats should not be tolerated. I will attempt a parent call. Prior calls have not worked.”

UA Wildlife is slated for closure.

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