2001-04-28 / Columnists

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms

A Parent Searches For Answers.

Hey people! This column goes out to all the parents who have had the unfortunate opportunity of battling the New York City Board Education with no result. There are many of you out there, and for those who believe that you can’t take on the system, let me introduce you to someone who is fighting, tooth and nail, to clear her name and initiate change within the NYC school system.

Linda Moye McFadden is a good woman and an even better mother. She takes pride in the fact that her children do well in school and that they are well mannered. She is a fulltime student that is about to graduate from a York College GED program, and once that is accomplished, she will start a training class to become a computer technician. She wants to provide a better life for herself and her children, and she is taking great strides to insure that this happens. The fact that she is a single parent trying to do all this has not made things easy, and her recent war with the N.Y.C.B.O.E. has only made things tougher for her and her family.

I was summoned to her home amid allegations of a cover up and possible assault against her eight year old daughter at P.S.104 in Far Rockaway. I was provided with a number of documents that she felt would prove her claims. This included a sworn statement by the mother, a doctor’s report, with commentary, and photos. The presentation was "tight" to say the least, but nothing impressed me more than when I had the opportunity to speak with her daughter one on one. I found her to be quite articulate and well composed for a girl of her age. She proceeded to tell me the following: "On February 15, I was in my classroom, and the school day was ending. A friend of mine had placed the book of an absent student on my desk, and I ask them to put it back. When they didn’t, I got up to put the book back. The teacher turned around and saw me, and she got mad. She told the class monitor to take my bookbag to the principal’s office. I got upset, and I started crying. I tried to tell her that I didn’t do anything. I left the classroom to go and tell the principal and get my bookbag. The teacher grabbed my jacket in the hallway, and I took it off. She grabbed me by my throat, and I was up against the wall so I couldn’t go anywhere. I told her I was going to tell my mother, and she said you’d better not tell your mother what happened. I was scared, so I never said anything to my mother until she saw the scratches and bruises on my neck. Then I had to tell her."

It was at this point that I reviewed all of the documents in greater detail. They clearly showed that she made every effort possible to find out what happened to her daughter. She had the names and numbers of key people within the B.O.E. system, the times and dates they were contacted, and she showed me a piece of paper where she wrote the officers’ names and badge numbers who took her complaint. She had all of this information, yet she was being shuffled around from one person to the next. A few weeks after this incident her second daughter was attacked by a fifth grade special education student, who was on the playground without supervision. When she inquired about this situation, she was again told that the matter was being looked into. As this issue hits the stands, Linda is still waiting for answers.

I went to P.S. 104 to speak to the principal and the teacher in question. The principal, Ms. Maureen Gonzalez, told me repeatedly that B.O.E. guidelines prevented her, and anyone else, from commenting on the case. I had suspected that all along, but I thought it was worth a shot. I then attempted to contact a number of people in the B.O.E. to try and help Linda. I was also trying to portray the school in a positive light by providing them with an opportunity to plead their case. No one was willing to step forward to help me obtain either of these goals.

Over the next few weeks, I was constantly told that I had to call this person or that person for answers. I spoke to John Pertrac and Marge Feinberg at the Press Office. I left several messages for Cynthia Lapsley, of District 27. Then I tried to speak to Tom Hyland at the Office of Special Investigation, which is headed by Ed Stancik, but I ended up speaking to Consumi Parker. She was the nicest person I spoke to in all this madness. She was the one who informed me that although the office did not list cases by file number, there was no record of a report being filed under the name McFadden or Moye. I found this interesting because Linda was given a file number by police officers so that she could track her case. One would logically suspect that cases are filed by name as well. So, now we knew no report was filed under her name. The next thing to consider was whether or not this file number actually existed. Linda had placed calls to get information on the file number, and so did I. We both were told that no information could be provided because the case was under investigation. So, they would not confirm or deny the existence of this file number. Isn’t the system great!

I was really starting to get pissed because I was being told to call all of these bureaus, but when I called they said they could not comment. I was getting the run around, and I’m sure many of you have gone through the same thing in trying to get information from the BOE. I decided to go to the District Superintendent, Matt Bromme. He did his best to accommodate me, but the bottom line was he could not comment on the case because it was still under investigation. I then made one last attempt to help Linda by contacting Marge Feinberg once again. I hope you’re following all this folks because here’s where it gets weird. Ms. Feinberg had told me, last week, that the investigation had been completed and the allegations were unwarranted and unfounded. In other words, nothing happened to the kid, and the teacher was innocent. I could not contain my laughter, and I told her, "I just got off the phone with Matt Bromme, and he said the case was still under investigation!" She then stated that she would have to recheck the status of the case, and that she would be calling Matt Bromme after our conversation. Can you say…busted!

It is equally important to note that Ms. McFadden also sent a certified letter to the Deputy Superintendent, Francis LoFaso, after the alleged attacks. In the letter she had informed him that she, and her children, did not feel comfortable going to school because they felt they’d be abused. She abruptly pulled them out, and she has been home-schooling them ever since. This action also stems from the principal’s refusal to cooperate, although the teachers were willing, in providing lesson plans and assignments to her children, via a school representative, until the matter is resolved.

There is a lot more involved in this case, but I only have a limited amount of space to work with in this column. However, I have provided you with the essential information. There are some very serious questions that have to be addressed. Why is the B.O.E. threatening to call BCW (Bureau of Child Welfare) on her to have her kids removed from the home, but they will not comply with her requests to insure her children’s safety? Why was the PTA president and vice president asked to leave a meeting, that they were scheduled to be part of, between Ms. McFadden, the principal and 101 precinct officers Hynes and Pisagno? If the investigation has concluded, why hasn’t anyone from the B.O.E. informed Ms. McFadden of the decision? How can a mother send her child to school, without a bruise on them, only to have them come back with scratch marks and not one school administrator can explain it? Why haven’t certain witnesses been allowed to speak? Why must she be shuffled from one area to another, over a period of months, with little or no response from B.O.E. officials?

This woman needs answers, and somebody should have the balls, or breasts, to step up and provide them. It’s time to stop passing the buck and resolve this issue. Photos don’t lie, and as a result of being given the runaround, coupled with an obvious attempt to sweep things under the rug, it’s difficult for this op-ed and investigative columnist, to believe that this little girl is lying about what happened.

I miss you Leon.

See you next week.

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