The American dream was tarnished last week for at least 100 children who were shut out of a carnival at their Flushing elementary school because their parents did not pay the $10 fee.
Nearly 900 students at PS 120 who complied with the principal’s edict attended the event in the school yard, but some of their disappointed classmates were banished to the auditorium for a rerun of an old Disney movie, according to the New York Post.
The school at 58-01 136th St. caters to the children of Chinese immigrants, many of whom would find it difficult to spare $10 for a carnival that was being held during school hours and should have been accessible for all. Adding to the distress of the kids who were not allowed to play on the outdoor rides, the principal tacked up a list of the children who had paid and those who had not, the Post reported.
Queens prides itself on being the most ethnically diverse county in the United States and perhaps even the world. The underlying message has been that the borough is the gateway to a better life for people from all over the world and a staging ground for future leaders of the country.
But Joan Monroe, the principal of PS 120, put an ugly face on the equality we expect from our public school system in Queens. How do you explain to children that they are to be treated differently because their parents are poor? And why did she decide to hold an event during regular school hours that would divide the students into two separate classes based on income?
This brings back textbook lessons of serfs and lords of the manor, a medieval system that evolved into a rigid class system in many countries that spurred immigrants to come to America.
The Department of Education, which said it is taking the incident at PS 120 “seriously,” should investigate thoroughly.
There is a disturbing trend involving income segregation in this city, which has been practiced with aplomb in Manhattan and may be spilling into the other boroughs. It’s a riff on Mayor de Blasio’s Tale of Two Cities.
In one outrageous example, the city’s tax break policy allowed an Upper West Side developer to require affordable housing tenants to use a separate entrance known as a “poor door” in his new high-rise.
Make no mistake: The PS 120 students who had not paid the fees were ushered through the “poor door” to the auditorium.
And no matter what the excuses from the principal, separate has never been equal in Queens or the rest of this country.