The Department of Education is investigating a Park Slope principal’s “communist activity” in a brazen attempt to silence her complaints alleging racist city policies that promote segregation in Brooklyn schools, according to a lawsuit brought against the city by Park Slope Collegiate Principal Jill Bloomberg.
Accusations of leftist-leanings may sound out of place in the new millennium, but the city’s McCarthy-era slurs are effective, time-honored tools for destroying reputations and silencing activists, Bloomberg said.
“Anti-racist activists have historically been characterized as communists in an attempt to discredit them, and that’s what we consider to be chilling,” said Bloomberg, who has served as principal at Park Slope Collegiate since 2004. “Without investigating anything specific, just these vague unconstitutional claims, is what leads people to fear about their politics and what they believe in.”
Bloomberg says she’s no pink-o commie, but proudly admits to a long history of antagonizing school officials over perceived discriminatory policies that give students attending predominately white schools advantages over the overwhelmingly black and Latino students at Park Slope Collegiate.
“We’re not denying that we’ve been outspoken,” Bloomberg said. “We’re very much in favor of equity.”
The school leader became an active critic of the city’s education department in 2010, when it announced Millennium High School would join Park Slope Collegiate and other schools at the John Jay Education Campus on Seventh Avenue, which in her mind, was an attempt by the city to reject integrating the children of wealthy Park Slope families with existing schools.
“It felt like here was a fantastic opportunity to create an integrated school and, rather than try to do that, rather than address whatever barriers they think there might be, DOE said we need a separate school for students living in the zip,” Bloomberg said.
Since then, Bloomberg has led parents in chants haranguing department officials, protested security cameras and metal detectors at schools, organized anti-segregation panels, and gathered parents and students for demonstrations following police violence against blacks and Latinos, and, while she has been admonished by school officials, she hasn’t faced disciplinary action as a result of her activism.
But that changed after Bloomberg discovered that the 1,261 students at Millennium had nearly twice as many sports teams as the 1,859 other students attending schools at the John Jay campus, and the fire-brand principal fired off complaints to officials accusing the city of violating the Civil Rights Act.
Within two weeks, she says, investigators were interrogating Bloomberg’s colleagues about her political activities, and, if the timing weren’t enough to make her suspicious that the investigation was linked to her accusations of racism, then the absurdity of the city’s allegations was.
“It’s so vague and ridiculous, what else could it possibly be about?” Bloomberg asked.
A legal memorandum compiled by city lawyers states the Department of Education investigation was launched in response to complaints from an anonymous source, who said Bloomberg’s husband filmed a documentary on behalf of the Len Ragozin Foundation — which is affiliated with the Marxist Progressive Labor Party — that was screened at the school for $20 a seat.
But Bloomberg’s advocacy has nothing to do with the city’s ongoing investigation into her communist dealings, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Toya Holness.
Bloomberg admitted her husband did help fund a documentary regarding racial profiling through the Ragozin Foundation, and that the film was screened at the school, but said her husband’s foundation has no connection to communism and that the film, which was offered for free, was permitted by the Department of Education.
“They’re investigating me for things that are demonstrably false,” Bloomberg said.