Kid choked at PS 144, parent says

By Jennifer Warren

A parent of a student attending PS 144 in Forest Hills told members of Community School Board 28, which is responsible for schools in Forest Hills, Richmond Hill and Jamaica, that a child had attacked another child in the bathroom at the school.

Discussion of the attack was not on the school board’s Monday night agenda. The meeting had been scheduled to approve zoning changes for JHS 217 and feeder schools PS 54 and PS 82 that passed. Also raised was the future of PS 3, which is now used only for SB 28’s offices and meetings, and the lack of crossing guards at PS 160 in South Jamaica.

The PS 144 bathroom incident occurred when a special education student put his hands around the neck of another student and choked him, said PS 144 parent Abby Bushlow of Forest Hills. There had been four students in the bathroom at the time, and when one of them tried to leave to find help, he was tripped, the parent said.

The incident was deemed an “accident” by the school, Bushlow said, and as a result was never reported to the board.

Superintendent Neil Kreinik told Bushlow “any incident where a child is attacked — those must be reported as incidents to this office.”

Bushlow had told Kreinik earlier in the meeting that “it seems they’re taking a latitude of discretion about what is reported and what isn’t.”

Asked by the Time-Ledger to comment, PS 144 Principal Ruth Cohen’s office deferred all questions back to Kreinik at the school board’s district offices.

School Board 28 spokesman Ron Levine said the school board is looking into the accusations.

“The superintendent has launched a full investigation into the matter,” Levine said.

The rezoning for JHS 217, PS 54 and PS 82 will take effect in September. At that time JHS 17 will become a middle school serving Grades 6, 7 and 8, while PS 54 and PS 82 will have students in kindergarten through grade 5. Fifth-grade students who attend PS 86 and PS 117 will have the option of applying to attend Middle School 217 for Grade 6.

The plan, which passed by a vote of 8 in favor and one abstention, was designed to alleviate crowding at the primary schools.

Also discussed at the meeting was the future of the School Board 28 district office building, which administrators are currently renovating for its expected return for use a school. A parent from the area raised the issue from the floor, asking what the effect would be on nearby schools PS 196 and PS 175.

Kreinik said that if asbestos is found in the walls during the renovations, the original plan to reopen the school in September could be pushed back to September 2002. The two neighboring primary schools, PS 196 and PS 175, while at capacity, are not overcrowded, so there were more options for the PS 3 building beyond a primary school.

Parents of students at PS 160, the Walter F. Bishop School in South Jamaica, said the crossing guard who had been stationed at the busy corner of Arlington and Inwood avenues was transferred to Inwood Avenue and 110th Street where the parents said he was less needed.

Kreinik was aware of the shortage of crossing guards, he said. But the issue was “not that [the police precinct] doesn’t have the money, they don’t have the people.”

The PS 144 parent, Abby Bushlow, said she became concerned about school security when she watched a Channel 5 report showing a station news producer easily able to enter several primary schools in New York City and Long Island without being questioned.

Kreinik said that generally when he and his staff enter one of the district schools, they try to gain access “any way but the legal way” to test security.

At a junior high school recently, he and his deputy superintendent made their way to the third floor without being stopped once to identify themselves. When they reached the third floor, they encountered the vice principal. But if they had not, Kreinik said, “we could have been wandering around the school for the rest of the day.”

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

More from Around New York