The city announced it will squeeze a center for suspended students into one of Fort Greene’s best-performing middle schools, just days after it bowed to community outrage and quashed a plan to house a similar center in another junior high just a few blocks away.
News of the city’s decision reached the principal of the MS 113 performing arts middle school in a June 21 e-mail from the Department of Education, just a week before the close of the school year.
Principal Khalek Kirkland was not pleased. In a strongly worded response, Kirkland wrote, “I have met with my PTA and my community leaders, and we are all opposed to the placement of this suspension site.
“With more students and a suspension site, it will soon become an overpopulated school and undoubtedly fail to provide the necessary environment conducive to learning,” continued Kirkland. “Is that the goal — to see [it] become a failing school?”
PTA member James Harris was also outraged, especially in light of recent gang-related attacks on students going to and from school.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” said Harris. “On May 12, on my son’s way home from school, he was attacked by five kids and beaten up. … I heard the nonsense that the suspended students will be separated [from the general school population]. What will you do, helicopter them in and out?”
The selective performing arts school, on Adelphi Street between DeKalb and Lafayette avenues, will share space with no more than 80 suspended students, most from within the same school district. The Alternative Learning Center will have its own principal, guidance counselors and staff. Its students will not mingle with those from the host school, according to the city.
This is the second recent controversy to rile District 13, which includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
In early June, the city tried to foist a suspension center on IS 265, on Park Avenue, between Cumberland Street and Carlton Avenue. Following an uproar, the city withdrew its plan, though officials said the plan’s death was strictly about limited space at IS 265.
But Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) wasn’t convinced.
“Lo and behold, within 48 hours [of withdrawing the IS 265 plan], they announced they were going to site it at MS 113,” said James. “I recognize the children have to go to school, but the issue is finding a suitable location.”
City policy mandates that students who receive a suspension of between six and 90 days be sent to a suspension center rather than be allowed to stay at home.
Education Department spokeswoman Dina Paul Parks denied that the kids who attend such centers are a danger to the rest of the student body.
“The notion that we’re bringing in these completely unruly kids who will create havoc is a mistaken impression,” said Paul Parks. “The idea is to give them the instruction they’re entitled to legally and morally.”
©2007 Community News Group
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