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Bronx school scare ends peacefully

April 24, 2009 11:45:35 AM PDT
Middle school students were evacuated from their school after a faculty member refused to leave a room Friday morning. The standoff ended peacefully just before noon, and the teacher is now police custody.

Eyewitness News is told 55-year-old Francisco Garabitos refused to leave a second-floor room inside the building on Teller Avenue, which houses three middle schools in the Melrose section of the Bronx. Garabitos was barricaded inside M.S. 328, the New Millennium Business Academy.

The building was completely evacuated, and police say there was never any indication that a bomb or weapons were involved or on the premises.

NYPD, DOE and other city agency officials were on site negotiating with Garabitos, who was talked out of the school by NYPD hostage negotiator, with assistance from the UFT District representative.

Garabitos, a 30-year teaching veteran, will get psychiatric evaluation and then be taken to a local precinct.

Garabitos was a UFT chapter chairman at the school.

Sources say he was notified Thursday that he was being reassigned to a "rubber room" after an allegation that he grabbed a student around the neck.

He barricaded himself inside a classroom, reportedly saying, "I have a date with God."

Garabitos originally indicated to police that he had planted a bomb in the library, which he later admitted was false. But he slipped a note to police negotiators, saying he was on a hunger strike and would not eat until the principal was out.

Meanwhile, Garabitos called the UFT central offices and asked to speak with UFT President Randi Weingarten. She was in Washington, D.C., so he asked to speak with UFT security boss Sterling Roberson.

Weingarten was on the phone with police hostage negotiators from an airport in Washington as she readied to come back to New York City.

Garabitos is paid $100,049 a year.

The building houses three middle schools -- J.H.S. 145, M.S. 328 and M.S. 325. The school, which has grades six through eight, has en enrollment of 276 students. New Millennium Business Academy opened in September 2004 when CIS 145 was restructured.

Students there take business-themed classes, such as one on entrepreneurship, "to keep them interested in learning and to set the stage for students to go to a business high school."

Each school in the facility occupies its own floor and shares the common facilities: cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, and outdoor yard.

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