The New York Times
: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/26/nyreg ... ERFEATURES
School Official Faces Firing Over Mistreatment of Haitians
By SUSAN SAULNY
Published: April 26, 2005
School officials said yesterday that they have begun proceedings to fire an administrator at a Queens elementary school after investigators confirmed that she recently called a group of Haitian students animals and ordered them to eat lunch without utensils on a gymnasium floor.
But the investigators said they did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate a claim from some of the students and their parents that the administrator, Nancy Miller, an assist
ant principal at Public School 34 in Queens Village, made a derogatory statement about their Haitian ethnicity.
The students had asserted that Ms. Miller called them animals one day last month and made them eat on the floor because that is the way people eat in Haiti, "like animals." Parents and their supporters protested outside the school two weeks ago and called for Ms. Miller's termination.
"This is wholly unacceptable behavior and should never have happened," Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said. He added, "I anticipate that Ms. Miller will be removed from her job as assistant principal and from the school, and that we will begin termination proceedings against her."
Mr. Klein also said that Ms. Miller would not be allowed to return to the school and that she is scheduled to have a disciplinary conference later this week.
Releasing its findings in a 22-page report, the school system's Office of Special Investigations largely upheld what the children - a group of fourth-
and fifth-grade students in a bilingual Creole and English class - said happened during lunchtime at the school on March 16. The report included 27 interviews with student and adult witnesses, many interviewed multiple times. It also scrutinized written accounts that some of the students involved in the incident wrote just days after it happened.
In the report, the investigators said they found the students' claims credible because of the consistency of their accounts and their demeanor while being interviewed.
One fourth-grade girl told an investigator, "I was upset because Ms. Miller called us animals and made us sit on the floor and eat with our hands."
Another student said: "People were looking at us. We were embarrassed. There was a girl laughing."
Ms. Miller denied many of the allegations. But the investigation did not find all of Ms. Miller's account to be credible.
According to the report, Ms. Miller said she thought the class was finished with lunch when she se
ated them on the floor, which she described as an attempt to separate several misbehaving children who had been pushing and shoving in the lunch line. She also said she never used the word "animal."
A spokesman for the union that represents Ms. Miller said the office was closed yesterday and that no one was available to comment on the case.
The executive director of the Haitian Centers Council, Dr. Henry Frank, did not return several calls for comment yesterday. Dr. Frank, a leading voice of the Haitian community, became involved after parents asked him to intervene because they were not getting any responses to their complaints from school officials.
The school was closed yesterday for spring break.