A Queens school district’s education council expressed disappointment over an abruptly ended town hall meeting last week with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.
The Jan. 16 event in Bayside descended into near chaos when Carranza failed to fully address “the safety of our children” in light of recent accusations of sexual harassment and physical altercations at M.S. 158, also in Bayside.
Several parents confronted the chancellor regarding these issues, but were met with a slew of unanswered questions.
“While some questions addressing budget, family notifications, student concerns, curricula development, staff resources and support were posed to the chancellor, unfortunately an important and current pressing topic in District 26 was not completely addressed which is the safety of our children,” read the statement from CEC 26. “While we applaud an open dialogue for parents with the chancellor about this topic, unfortunately the chancellor chose to end the meeting abruptly due to what he felt as ‘safety concerns.’”
CEC 26 President Adriana Aviles confirmed to QNS last week that it was the chancellor’s decision to end the meeting. Things became contentious after a Bayside father requested “just one minute” to share the story of his daughter’s sexual assault at the hands of a fellow classmate.
Audience members — including one whom Aviles identified as a staff member to Councilman Robert Holden — began yelling over the father, urging the CEC to “let him speak.”
It's a darn shame when an elected official has someone on his staff @BobHoldenNYC who comes to other districts to disrupt and cause distractions during incredible community meetings. I don't get that..so only the constituents in your neck of the woods get a voice? pic.twitter.com/xQdgTTfiOD
— Adriana Aviles (@Nanalatina3577) January 18, 2020
That staff member, based on the photo accompanying Aviles’ tweet, appears to be Charles Vavruska — who previously slammed Carranza as acting racist at prior events, including a rally against a Glendale homeless shelter plan.
“@D26Team Town Hall with @DOEChancellor unfortunately was constantly disrupted by these individuals who could care less about these families and the tragic events their children endured..their agenda purely selfish and just as toxic as a leader with no heart @DOEChancellor,” wrote Aviles on Twitter.
While the CEC and Aviles herself said that it was the chancellor’s decision to end the meeting, the Department of Education replied with its own statement saying that it was a collaborative decision.
“Once it became clear the town hall was no longer going to be a productive conversation, the DOE and CEC president ended the meeting. As always, every question asked is going to be addressed,” said DOE Spokesperson Miranda Barbot in a statement.
In the wake of last Thursday’s meeting, M.S. 158 sent out a letter to parents reminding them of the “procedures, resources and support available should your child experience any kind of troubling incident or crime at school.”
The school identified several ways for parents to handle such incidents including reporting it to administration and staff directly, using a complaint form, reporting it online or emailing the Office of Safety and Youth Development (OSYD) at RespectforAll@schools.nyc.gov.
“Schools are required to report such complaints in their Online Occurrence Reporting System (OORS). You can ask the school administration for the incident number for follow up. The school will conduct an investigation and will inform you of the outcome of the investigation. If the investigation finds that a student — or students — have been bullying or harassing your child, the school will follow the process described in the Discipline Code,” said M.S. 158 in a letter to parents.
The letter came only after M.S. 158 parents like the father whose daughter suffered sexual harassment and Katty Sterling whose daughter was involved in a physical altercation at M.S. 158 asserted that the school was not doing enough to protect their children.