2008-10-10 / Front Page

PS 215 Lock-Down Keeps Parents In Dark

By Howard Schwach

Several dozen parents milled around the entrances of Public School 215 in Wavecrest for nearly an hour last Monday afternoon, wondering and worrying why their children were not being dismissed from the school at 3:10 p.m., the normal dismissal time, several parents say.

"We were worried sick, pounding on the school door, ringing the bell," one parent, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution against her child, told The Wave. "We could see that something was wrong, but nobody came out to tell us what was going on and there were no police officers or fire engines around. We thought there might have been some sort of medical emergency or problem in the school. We wanted to see our kids and make sure they were all right."

Sources say that school principal, Suzan Rippe, heard a gunshot outside the school and decided to lock the school down.

Parents, however, did not learn that fact until approximately 4:10 p.m., when the school doors were opened and staff informed the waiting parents.

"Teachers were coming out, students were coming out, and we still didn't know what was going on," the parent said.

Finally, a staff member who I know came over and told me about the gunshot."

Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, told The Wave on Tuesday that Rippe had heard a gunshot outside the school and decided to lock down the building at about 2:50 p.m.

"She called the 101 Precinct and officers responded," Feinberg said. "They finally gave the all clear and the principal released the building. She used proper procedure."

Parents disagree. "We saw no police officers at the school for the entire time we were outside," a parent said. "There were no cops at the building."

Sources at the 101 Precinct say they can find no record of a call from the school, which is located at 535 Briar Place. In addition, there is no record of anybody calling the 911 emergency system reporting a shot fired in the area during that period of time.

That has left parents angered that the principal would put them in danger.

"Even if [the principal] heard a shot, how could they allow the parents to stand around the building for an hour without telling them that they were in danger," a parent argued. "Somebody could have come out and told us what was going on."

"One of the teachers said that they did not know what was going on either," the parent said. "All they knew was that the principal came over the loudspeaker and said not to open classroom doors. They did not know whether the problem was inside the school or outside."

Calls to the school for comment were referred to the Department of Education's press office.

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