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June 2, 2011 permalink
In New York when parents complain about their children's school, the teachers respond by siccing the child protectors on the family. Favorite complaint: educational neglect. This sounds like what doctors have been doing for years, launching Munchausen accusations to deflect malpractice suits.
Parents say administrators are siccing ACS on them to retaliate for complaints
Complain at school and get a knock on the door.
Friction with principals and fights with teachers have led to visits from child welfare investigators, numerous parents have told the Daily News.
"They think they can bully parents," said Nicole Bush, who was investigated after a dispute with her son's Bronx school. "I want to see the people who did this get theirs."
While school and child welfare officials say they are required to report any red flags, parents like Bush say schools are seeking revenge or attempting to cover up complaints. And they say schools may be wasting the time of an overtaxed city agency charged with taking care of vulnerable kids.
Bush says she feared for her son's safety after a male school aide took him to unknown locations during school hours for a "suspension" last spring.
She pulled the then-first-grader out of Public School 11 in the Bronx and asked administrators to investigate.
But then she, too, got investigated - by the city's Administration for Children's Services - for her son's absences.
She was later cleared, according to documents.
Public School 11 Principal Elizabeth Hachar said the school has policies in place about calling ACS but declined to discuss specifics. An Education Department spokeswoman said the probe into the school didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing related to the suspension.
At Achievement First East New York Middle School, one mom withdrew her son, Travis, 10, after he was harshly punished for minor infractions. And school officials tried to make him wear a T-shirt with the words "Not Yet" on it, suggesting he wasn't ready for regular classes, she said.
After Tracey Waddy complained to an elected official, child welfare workers began probing her family in January.
"I'm not taking this lightly. You sent ACS on me. You were that malicious," said Waddy, who was later cleared, according to documents.
Principal David Hardy said he placed the call to ACS because of excessive absences - even though Waddy says Hardy had provided her with a list of schools her son could transfer to.
"If we don't make a call when a student has been absent an excessive amount and something happens to the student when they should have been at school, then it will come back to us," said Achievement First spokesman Mel Ochoa.
Other parents put on ACS' radar - and later cleared of any wrongdoing - include:
- The father of a teen facing felony charges for stabbing a teacher with a plastic comb earlier this year, an arrest that raised eyebrows after the father spoke to the Daily News.
- The mother of a Queens kindergartner who complained after her son was stuck walking the halls with a teacher because the school didn't have a seat for him.
Officials with ACS note that school officials are required to report suspected cases of abuse, neglect or excessive absence.
"ACS is appropriately required to investigate concerns of educational neglect when a parent is not making sure that a child is going to school, particularly when the concerns involve younger children," said ACS spokeswoman Elysia Carnevale Murphy.
"These concerns may also point to other forms of abuse or neglect, or of a family's need for additional support in providing for the well-being of their children."
Some child advocates, though, say schools overtax the system with calls, preventing the overburdened agency from dealing with truly difficult cases.
"When you overload your system, those workers will have less time to find children in real danger," said National Coalition for Child Protection Reform's Richard Wexler.
Source: New York Daily News