2006-10-27 / Community

Thumbs Down On 'Safety Transfer' Teen

Despite Tweed OK, CVSR Turns Down Request
By Howard Schwach

A teenager who was assaulted and harassed at her Far Rockaway middle school was issued a "Safety Transfer" to the Channel View School For Research in early October, but remains home at press time because that school refused to enroll her, the girl's mother says.

`Bryiana Harper, an eighth grade student at Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway was assaulted in the stairway at the school last June, her mother, Linda Harper, says. At the time, school officials issued a "stern warning" to the assailant to stay away from Harper.

According to her mother, however, the warning did not hold into this school year.

"The second week of school, the same student approached Bryiana in the school cafeteria and began to use profanity and threats towards her," Linda Harper says. "Bryiana went into a mediation session with the student and the guidance counselor resulting in the student's removal from the school's Advanced Learning Institute, the program for bright students.

Three other students, friends of the assailant, then began to threaten and intimidate Bryiana, according to her mother and school records.

She was told, "If anybody gets in trouble for this, we will follow you home and gang you in the street We will beat you down.."

Afraid for her daughter, Linda Harper went to Region Five offices, where she was told that MS 53 is now officially an "Empowerment School," and no long under the control of the region. She was referred to Department of Education Headquarters at Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan.

Linda Harper then went to the DOE's headquarters. With all of the documentation in hand, an official at Tweed, Sandra Persky granted her daughter a "Safety Transfer" to the Channel View School of Research, a special program school housed at Beach Channel High School.

That transfer was approved by Paula Super, the placement official for Queens, according to the paperwork provided to The Wave by Harper.

When she finally got the papers and went to CVSR on October 6, however, she was told that the school was no longer accepting eighth grade transfers.

She went back to Tweed, where she was offered a transfer to Middle School 226 in Ozone Park, a bus or subway trip that she considers too long and too dangerous for her daughter, although Keith Kalb, a spokesperson for the DOE told The Wave that "the trip does not take too long."

Harper said that she made the trip by subway and it took her almost two hours during rush hour to get from Far Rockaway to Ozone Park. She turned down the placement; she says that she does not want her daughter traveling long hours each day to and from school and demanded a Rockaway placement.

Harper also told officials that her daughter, who has scored Level 3 on her standardized reading and mathematics tests was in a special gifted program at MS 53 and that she wanted a similar program wherever she was placed. She saw the Channel View placement as her best bet.

"I was devastated when Channel my daughter was turned down by the Channel View School," she says. "Nobody would tell me why my daughter was turned down. She was confused and worried."

Rita Giaramita, the Local Instructional Superintendent for the school told The Wave, however, that Tweed Courthouse did not understand the nature of the Channel View program and should never have made the placement.

"Both Channel View and the Scholar's Academy are application schools," Giaramita said. "We can't just take kids by transfer because there is a waiting list and it would be unfair to those students on that list to take students on transfer from another school."

Harper says that she tried to meet with Claude Monereau, the principal of MS 53 before seeking the safety transfer, but could not get in to see him. She added that Monereau, recently told her that he would take her daughter back, but that he "could not guarantee her safety."

Monereau, however, apologized to Harper for not seeing her in an October 12 letter.

"Please accept my apologies for not being able to see me (sic) on Wednesday, October 4 and for having to wait for 2 1/2 hours. I was never aware of this situation and was made aware on October 11. I want to express to you my sincere apologies and such a situation will never reoccur."

On October 23, the Department of Education, after being questioned by The Wave about this story, offered a placement at PS 225 on Beach 110 Street, a school without a special program for bright students.

Kalb called The Wave to say that Bryiana would be enrolling in that school on Tuesday morning, but her mother said that she would have to check out the school and its programs before agreeing to the placement.

"I am not going to let them put my daughter someplace where she can get hurt or maimed," she said. "I want her where she will be safe and where she can get the education she deserves. That is what every parent wants."

Meanwhile, Bryiana, who had been home for more than two weeks, is trying a placement at PS 225.

Her mother told The Wave on Thursday that the curriculum at the school is "far behind" what she had at MS 53 and she is "still pursuing a placement that will provide the best education" for her daughter.

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