Sub assaults student; faces up to seven years in jail

THE COURIER/Photo by David Beltran

A substitute teacher at a Flushing elementary school has been arrested for allegedly wringing the neck of a six-year-old student, officials said.

Grace Peterson-Hagendorf, 59 — a retired teacher who works as a day-to-day substitute — allegedly pushed a female student at P.S. 22 from behind before pinching and twisting her neck, court records show.

The girl suffered substantial pain, redness and swelling, and sustained a large welt to her neck from the March 7 assault, officials said. She was then taken to a local hospital where she received medical attention for her injuries.

“Schools are meant to be safe learning environments for their students,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “It is therefore difficult to comprehend that a teacher could lose all self-control and physically attack a young student in front of a room full of her friends and classmates.”

According to Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Peterson-Hagendorf is ineligible to work pending the outcome of her case. A Flushing resident, Peterson-Hagendorf had worked at P.S. 22 twice this year, Feinberg said.

Peterson-Hagendorf is charged with second- and third degree assault, endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree harassment, according to the criminal complaint. If convicted, she faces up to seven years in prison.

Meanwhile, some parents at P.S. 22 — located on Sanford Avenue — said the incident does not reflect the otherwise safe nature of the school.

“This is a great school. I have never heard of any problems before,” said parent and P.S. 22 alumnus Jose Ramirez. “I’m in shock because it really is a good school. It’s just that there are some teachers that you hardly know.”

Peterson-Hagendorf is the ninth public school employee to be arrested since the beginning of the year. She was released on her own recognizance and is ordered to return to court on April 2, the district attorney said.


With additional reporting by David Beltran