2007-10-12 / Community

Mom:Forced To Flee NYC Schools,Threatened By ACS

By Howard Schwach

A young mother who says she was forced to move to Suffolk County after her daughter was assaulted by a school bus driver outside of PS 215 last school year, has charged two city agencies - the Administration For Children's Services and the Department of Education - with botching her daughter's school records and then with threatening to take away her other school-aged children.

Lateishe Hayes told The Wave that she moved to Central Islip on Long Island to get away from the horror of the assault on her five-year-old daughter, Star Aisa, and the school system's failure to respond to the assault by a school bus driver.

During the summer, she says, she moved. In September, records show, she registered Star Aisa at the Marguerite L. Mulvey School in Central Islip. She says that at the time of her registration, a school official called PS 215 in Far Rockaway to report that the child had been entered in that school.

Yet, late last month, Hayes got a call from a caseworker from the Administration for Children's Services, claiming that she was knowingly keeping her child home from school and charging her with "educational neglect."

When Hayes told the caseworker that her daughter was in school in Suffolk County, she says, she was told that she would have to bring her children to the ACS office for an inspection and that she was in danger of losing her children if she did not cooperate with the agency.

Aspokesperson for ACS, however, said that it doesn't work that way; that children cannot be taken from a parent without a long investigation and proof of either neglect or abuse.

Hayes provided The Wave with proof that the child was indeed registered in the Central Islip school and that she was attending regularly.

And, while officials for the Department of Education said that the child was never discharged, The Wave obtained a DOE Automate The Schools (ATS) document that was produced on October 5 showing that Starr Asia (sic) was discharged from the third grade at PS 215 on September 4 of this year.

The document, however, shows that it was last worked on by somebody with access to the school's ATS System on October 5, which, an expert familiar with the system says, may indicate that it was backdated to show the earlier date of discharge after the controversy began, although there would be no way or proving or disproving that allegation.

An expert in the ATS system told The Wave that a child who does not show up after a set number of days is automatically flagged with a "407," an indicator of a possible truancy.

Those 407's have to be investigated. If the child is not found, as in this case, the matter is handed to an attendance teacher and then, if the teacher's investigation is unsuccessful, to the ACS.

The expert said that situations such as this one often happen in the beginning of the school year, when secretaries are overworked and mistakes are made. If a secretary does not input the discharge date, the expert said, then a 407 Report would be automatically generated and a school-level investigation would be started.

For its part, a spokesperson for ACS issued a statement, "Once a report has been accepted by the State Central Registry (SCR) in Albany, a child protection worker must proceed with an investigation and see it through to completion to insure that a child is safe."

Meanwhile, Starr Aisa remains in class in her Suffolk County school and the ACS is going to court to demand that her mother turn over her medical records for inspection.

"I don't understand why this whole thing happened in the first place," she said. "I did everything right, and I'm still being punished."

Aspokesperson for the Department of Education told The Wave that he would get back to the paper with comment on the case, but did not do so by deadline.

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