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In New York’s schools, violence is rampant, punishment is rare

By K. Barrett Bilali, Urban News Service

Osman Couey is a New York City teacher who allegedly threw Ka’Veon Wilson, a 7-year-old special-needs student, across a hallway at Harlem’s Public School 194.

Couey allegedly had manhandled his students before. There was the 2013 incident in which a parent complained that Couey grabbed her son by the ear and hurled him down a flight of stairs. He also was reprimanded three times in 2004 and 2006 for corporal punishment and verbal abuse.

But the Ka’Veon Wilson episode was different. The school’s security cameras captured this incident. That recording gave the New York Police Department enough evidence to arrest Couey.

As shocking as it is to hear of a teacher hurting a child, this alleged assault occurred in an environment in which student-on-student and student-on-teacher violence is pervasive. Few transgressions are caught on video, and others go unreported. Nonetheless, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into New York City’s government schools reveals widespread brutality, involving perpetrators and victims across many ages and sizes.

“I have seen staff provoke kids,” said one 30-year veteran Manhattan teacher, who requested anonymity. This teacher and other school professionals have experienced school violence first-hand.

In one incident, a 180-pound eighth-grader pushed her at the top of a stairwell, this teacher said. She grabbed the railing and stopped herself from tumbling down the stairs. She reported the unprovoked attack. Nothing happened.

As this instructor attempted to protect one innocent student from a tormenting elementary school classmate, the aggressive school boy caught the teacher off balance, rammed into her and kicked her, she said. A lasting scar bolsters this educator’s story.

“At the parent-teacher conference, the parent used F-bombs in front of her son but still threatened to file a lawsuit against me for allegedly abusing her son in the past,” said the teacher. “But the worst part,” she said. “There was no support from the administration.”

She said the principal and staff all told her that it was her fault that she did not know how to handle “these kids.”

To cope, keep peace and not endure violence, “Teachers find ways to appease youngsters with candy, favors, and benefits,” she said.

In another Brooklyn school, a child was reported for disrupting a class. The student was assigned to in-school detention and then threw every chair in the room. The child was just 4.

On one Bronx campus, Assistant Principal Mary Negron-Biancaniello broke both of her arms while protecting her face from a flying chair. She since has retired from Gotham’s school system.

Last month, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report that criticized the city’s public schools for not reporting violent outbreaks.  The audit also found numerous “unauthorized student departures.” It sampled 10 city schools and discovered 177 cases of students leaving the premises without permission. School officials made no apparent effort to retrieve these students.

The audit also uncovered 400 unreported violent incidents. Among these, 126 involved reckless endangerment, sexual offenses, weapons possession and assaults with physical injuries.

New York City’s Department of Education is mandated to update accurately the State Education Department’s Violent and Disruptive Incident Report. Albany uses this document to calculate each campus’s School Violence Index. This determines whether a school is “persistently dangerous.”

Thirty-two schools landed on New York state’s “persistently dangerous” list in 2015. Of these, 27 (84 percent) are in New York City.

“If a school has a lot of suspensions, instead of fixing the problems, the schools try to hide them,” said Francesco Portelos, a tenured instructor and candidate for president of the United Federation of Teachers. Many teachers also are afraid to report classroom incidents because they wind up being blamed for them, Portelos said.

In one reported event in Staten Island, a male teacher was struck in the back of the head by a classroom door. Two students were suspended for this, but the teacher was written up for “poor judgement.”

Teachers do get hurt. But what about the violence that they commit?

“We don’t want to defend teachers who are hurting children, but we know what it is like to be accused of something while being innocent,” said Portelos. He said he has withstood 37 investigations in his 10 years as a Big Apple teacher. All of these allegations against him proved false.

Meanwhile, Osman Couey awaits trial for assault and acting in a manner injurious to a child under 16. A video brought his alleged violence to light. But plenty of brutality in America’s largest school system remains in the dark.

“You Still Don’t Get It!”

Lou Coleman

Lou Coleman

By Lou Coleman

There are some dire consequences when you don’t do things God’s way. You lose out on the blessings that God has for you when you don’t do things God’s way. You lose out on the victory that God has for you when you don’t do things God’s way. Doors of opportunity will be shut in your face when you don’t do things God’s way. Sleep will leave your eyes and you won’t be able to get any rest when you don’t do things God’s way. You will find yourself disappointed, depressed, and sad when you don’t do things God’s way. You will find yourself in bondage and confused when you don’t do things God’s way. You will find yourself broke, disgusted and frustrated when you don’t do things God’s way. You will find yourself in a whole lot of trouble, a whole lot of mess, and in a whole lot of unnecessary drama when you don’t do things God’s way. You will become weak, and despondent when you don’t do things God’s way. There will be no peace for you and no comfort for you when you don’t do things God’s way. Not only will you mess yourself up, but you will even cause your family, your children, your neighborhood, or even your own church not to be blessed when you don’t do things God’s way.

If you want to be blessed, you have to do things God’s way. If you want the victory, you have to do things God’s way. If you want to be successful and prosperous, you have to do things God’s way. If you want to be the head and not the tail, you have to do things God’s way. If you want to be blessed in the city and blessed in the field, you have to do things God’s way. If you want to be blessed going in and blessed going out, you have to do things God’s way If you want to be more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus, you have to do things God’s way. If you want deliverance, you must do things God’s way. If you want to be healed, you have to do things God’s way. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you have to do things God’s way. If you want your home and marriage to be blessed, you have to do things God’s way. If you want to be blessed on your job, at school, in your neighborhood, you have to do things God’s way.

If the church wants to be blessed, the church must do things God’s way. If the choir wants to be blessed, the choir must do things God’s way. If the Usher board wants to be blessed, the Usher Board must do things God’s way. If the Deacon board wants to be blessed, the Deacon board must do things God’s way. If the Trustees board wants to be blessed, it must do things God’s way. If the Sunday School Department wants to be blessed, it must do things God’s way. If the Mission or the Evangelism Department wants to be blessed, it must do things God’s way. Last, but not least, if the Pastor and the Ministers in the pulpit wants to be blessed, they must do things God’s way because doing things God’s way is a whole lot better than doing things our own way. I tell you, we ought to be committed in doing things God’s way.

To learn how to do things God’s way, we must put our focus, our trust, and our faith in God because it is through Christ, we learn how to do things God’s way. In John 14:6- Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man can come unto the Father, but by me.” We must be in prayer daily. We can’t do anything God’s way without prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show you great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” Finally, we must learn, study and be taught the Word of God. To know what is written in the Word of God, we must read the Word, hear the Word, learn the Word, and study the Word.

God has given us instructions, and directions in His Word for our lives to follow and obey, and he has spoken to us by His Holy Spirit. All King Joash had to do was take heed and do exactly what Elisha the prophet had told him to do because what Elisha the prophet was telling him to do was of God [2 Kings 13:14-19]. God has spoken, let the church say, Amen!



Poll: African-American Voters Feel Democratic Party Takes Them for Granted

DemocratBy Madlen Grgodjaian/California Black Media

A recent poll revealed many Black voters in California strongly identify with the Democratic Party, although 58 percent feel the establishment takes them for granted.

Commissioned by the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation (AAVREP) Project, The California African American Policy Priorities Survey sampled 800 potential African-American voters in Los Angeles, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The May 5-17 poll was conducted by telephone. Pollsters targeted registered voters who participated in either of the last two primary or general elections. They asked the survey participants questions on a range of topics, including state ballot initiatives, policy priorities and federal and state election candidates.

Nearly half of the respondents were ages 65 and older, reflecting a higher voter turnout in past elections. The  participants were also Californians who are more likely to vote this election year.

During a telephone press conference, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said this recent poll is a follow-up to others conducted in the past.

“This is a following on some of the polling that we’ve done in the past, measuring the outcome of the African-American voters in the City of Los Angeles and then one in the county of Los Angeles,” he said.

The survey revealed voters over 40 invariably favor Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Presidential nominee. On the other hand, a sizable generational gap reveals Bernie Sanders leads by 16 percent among voters under 40.

A majority of the voters had an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump, and two-thirds are motivated to vote specifically  to keep him from being elected.

The census also explored general perceptions of other leading political candidates on the June 7 Presidential Primary Election ballot. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is viewed favorably by 53 percent of Black voters. Thirty percent of the voters are in favor of U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, however, many say they are unfamiliar with her or do not know enough about her to offer an opinion.

On November ballot initiatives, participants strongly supported  proposed education bond and gun control measures.. Nearly four-in-five said they would support a $9 billion bond measure to fund improvement and new construction for K-12 schools and community colleges. Over three-quarters supported gun control initiatives that would outlaw large-capacity bullet magazines and require background checks for ammunition purchases.

The marijuana legalization measure was favored by a small margin. Statewide, 52 percent of respondents were for legalizing the recreational use of cannabis.

When asked about policy priorities, Black voters in all of the three major regions in the state identified homelessness as a serious problem. Ninety-three percent recognized it as a high priority for elected officials to address the ongoing epidemic.

Over half of the respondents believe law enforcement agencies should be held accountable for excessive use of force. Other high priority policies included making housing more affordable, improving access to quality health care, and fighting discrimination and institutional racism.  However, climate change and illegal immigration – two issues that poll high with the general population – did not factor as top priorities among Black voters.

Ridley-Thomas said polling is a fundamental feature of the democratic process.

 “The right to vote was hard fought, and continues to be, in terms of every round of debate pertaining to the voting rights,” he said. “And so this is yet another tool to make sure the promises of democracy are properly fulfilled.”