Far Rockaway HS Makes ‘Most Dangerous’ List
As if to underscore the Mayor’s designation of Far Rockaway High school as one of the twelve most dangerous schools in New York City, five students, including two teenage brothers, were arrested at the school on Tuesday. The brothers were arrested for assaulting school security agents after the younger brother had what police termed "a dispute" with the agents as he was going through the school’s metal detector.
Arrested in the most serious incident of the day were Schenel Joseph, 18 and David Joseph, 17. The younger brother is a member of the Far Rockaway High School basketball team.
Both of the security officers were taken to Peninsula Hospital Center with minor injuries and released after treatment.
According to police and prosecutors, David was being questioned as he went through the metal detector. He reportedly did not like the way security officers were speaking with him and an altercation broke out. Shenel then reportedly interceded by grabbing one of the security officers. They were charged with assault, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and harassment. The brothers could each face up to seven years if found guilty of all of the charges.
Dennis Coppin, the attorney representing Shenel, told Daily News reporter Scott Shifrel, "There was no dispute. They singled out one brother as he was going through the metal detector."
Bob Sharoff, David’s attorney agreed. "It looks like maybe they overreacted," Sharoff told Shifrel.
A spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney, however, told The Wave, "The criminal charges are based solely on the facts we have found in the investigation."
The other students who were arrested at Far Rockaway High School that day face a variety of charges.
One female student was arrested for refusing to take off her scarf and then cursing and scuffling with security agents, another for arguing with authorities about taking a cell phone through the metal detectors and a third for trying to enter the building with a box cutter.
Ray Turetsky, a dean at Far Rockaway High School told New York Post reporters that the students were not at all fazed by the increase in security, including ten police officers.
"We had five arrests today," he said. "I’m amazed that the children are still insubordinate and challenge the police," Turetsky reportedly said. "People assume that if you bring in the police, students will behave."
On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg named 12 "impact schools," those that are considered to be the most violent and dangerous in the city. Far Rockaway High School was the only school in Queens to be named to the list.
According to Department of Education statistics, the school has a suspension rate of 198 students per 1,000, almost four times the city average. This year, there have been 55 "low-level incidents" such as marijuana possession and disorderly conduct this year; twice as many as there were last year at this time.
A steady detail of police officers from the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway did vertical searches of the building in rotating shifts.
Their presence was augmented by two newly-assigned police officers who will be in the building full time as well as additional school safety officers. All in all, there were more than 20 police officers in Far Rockaway High School on the day that five students were arrested.
The father of the two boys thinks that his sons were singled out to bring a message to the other students.
"They picked up my sons to make an example of them," he told reporters at Queens Criminal Court, where the two pled not guilty and were released to the custody of their parents.
Despite the complaints about too many police officers in the schools, however, the city plans to move ahead with its new anti-violence initiative.
The NYPD’s Division of School Safety has also set up a task force made up of 150 officers citywide who will flood schools that continue to be problems, especially during lunch periods and at dismissal.
New school safety intervention teams, comprised of police and school officials, will visit each of the schools and come up with ways of addressing their safety problems.
The mayor sounded angry when he announced the plan.
"If I have to put a police officer next to every kid [in those schools] I will do it," Bloomberg said. "We are not going to tolerate disruptive behavior or criminal behavior – period."
Both the teacher’s union and the supervisor’s union responded favorably to Bloomberg’s announcement.
"This is a good step for the new year," said UFT President Randi Weingarten. "This is good news for teachers."
Ernest Logan, the vice president of the CSA echoed Weingarten.
"The mayor heard our cry for assistance and came through," Logan said.
The crackdown got mixed reviews from students.
One student told Nicole Bode of the Daily News, "I don’t think it makes no sense to have all these cops here with guns and pepper spray. I think they’re trying to treat us as criminals."
Another, however, who had been assaulted at the school earlier in the year, told The Wave, "It’s about time they did something. Now, I can feel safe in the building."
Far Rockaway High School received citywide notoriety a few weeks ago when 13 students were arrested in what police termed a "riot" that necessitated the police use pepper spray to end it.