Missing Child Spurs PS 114 Melee
By Howard Schwach
A 7-year-old child, missing for more than an hour after school ended on the second day of school, spurred an altercation between the child’s mother and the school’s principal that ended with the child back in school and the mother in handcuffs.
According to official police reports, the mother, Eve Smith of Rockaway Point, distraught that her son was missing, slapped principal Linda Vecchione in the face and pulled her hair in the PS 114 office.
Smith’s story, supported by her husband, Billy Smith and supported by at least one eyewitness, is far different.
"I was waiting for the bus when it came, and Billy wasn’t on it," Smith told The Wave earlier this week. ""I asked the bus driver where he was, and he said that he didn’t know, but that no other buses were coming that way."
Now panicked, Smith called the school and spoke to a secretary, who, according to Smith, said that she did not know what had happened and that there was nobody available to speak with her.
She and her husband drove to the school. A staff member told them, "Don’t worry about it, we’ll find him."
Now crying, Smith asked to see the principal. She was told that the principal was in a meeting and could not be disturbed.
According to Smith, Vecchione came out of her office at about 3:45 and told the mother, "If you don’t stop crying and screaming, I can’t help you."
"She seemed annoyed that we were so upset at the fact that our seven year old son was missing," Smith said.
Smith says that Vecchione turned away from her to walk away saying over her shoulder, "I don’t even think she even belongs in this district."
At that, Smith says, she put her hand on the principal’s shoulder to keep her from walking away.
At that point, she says, a school security officer grabbed her in a bear hug and held her tightly.
"I did not smack her," the mother says. "I did not pull her hair."
She was held in the school hallway by the security guard until police arrived.
"I thought they were there to help me find my son," she says. Instead, they put her in handcuffs and told her that she was under arrest for assaulting the principal.
"You have to realize that I am now in cuffs and my son is still missing," she says.
When her son, Billy, finally was returned to the school by another bus driver, it was found that he was put on the wrong bus by school authorities.
The crying youth found his mother sitting in a police car, her hands cuffed together.
Eventually, the police let her go, but they came to her house later in the day to re-arrest her.
"The principal insisted on your arrest," the cops allegedly told the mother.
Smith, who had volunteered in the school art program for several years, received a letter saying that she was no longer welcome in the building.
She says that a meeting with school superintendent Matt Bromme, deputy superintendent Martin Weinstein and pupil personnel director Ginay Marks was "unsatisfactory."
She has asked Steve Greenberg, the president of the local school board for a special meeting to address the situation.
The Wave was told by the District 27 office that officials at the Department of Education were handling all comment on this issue. The principal told The Wave much the same thing.
Repeated calls to the Department of Education went unreturned until late on Wednesday, when Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the department issued a statement, saying only, "The incident is under active investigation and is now a police matter."