A Manhattan charter school stands accused of letting its disciplinary team turn into a virtual goon squad that cracked down on troublemakers with violent beatdowns.
Students at Opportunity Charter School were punched, thrown to the floor and even dragged around by their hair, according to the city's Special Commissioner of Investigation.
School leaders not only "condoned assaults" - they tried to cover them up, the report charges. The smackdowns were never reported, in violation of school policy.
Investigators were tipped off to the harrowing abuse at the Harlem school by anonymous tipsters. [Link to original report here]
During the 2009-08 school year, the report alleges, Opportunity's "behavior management specialists" were called to manhandle unruly kids:
* A team of "specialists" put a 12-year-old student in a headlock after he became "disruptive" during a science class in May 2008. He ended up with a bloody nose and black eye.
* One specialist pulled a 15-year-old girl's head off her desk and dragged her out of the classroom by her hair.
* Another specialist pushed a 15-year-old student into a door jam head-first.
* A 14-year-old boy was thrown to the ground and pinned down after he refused to remove what staff referred to as "gang beads."
A call to the school was not immediately returned.
Opportunity Charter School was founded in 2004 for high-needs students. Special education students make up about half the student body.
Co-directors Betty Marsella and Leonard Goldberg and administrative director Brett Fazio, who supervised staffers when the alleged abuse took place, are still running the school.
Last year, Education Department officials renewed the school's charter for an additional two years.
They said they were aware of the charges but believed significant changes had been made in the last two years.
The use of physical restraint at a Harlem charter school that serves special education students was not reported properly and “could be considered condoned assaults and abuse of schoolchildren,” a city investigation released on Wednesday said.
The city’s special commissioner of investigation, Richard Condon, began investigating the school, the Opportunity Charter School on West 113th Street, after receiving an anonymous accusation of physical abuse in 2008, according to a report released by his office.
The investigation found that the charter school’s administrators failed to properly report at least three instances during the 2007-8 school year in which staff members used physical force to control students. In at least one of those cases, a student reported receiving injuries. The school reported nine instances of physical restraint, the investigation found. Three administrators cited for improperly supervising staff members still work for the school...