Parents outraged over PS 96 survey

June 4, 2009 3:57:03 PM PDT
A survey given to teachers at a school in East Harlem has drawn outrage from students and parents because the questions were ethnically-based. Parents at PS 96 say they would never have expected to have their children profiled along racial lines.

"I'm really disturbed by it, because I don't think...that an educator needs to take time out to really just focus on the behavior of the black and Hispanic kids in our community and in our school," parent Vilmary Bennett said.

School principal Claudia Moore-Hamilton ordered a written teacher survey to evaluate student disciplinary problems, with questions like:

  • How many of these students are daily disrupters: Black, Hispanic, other? and
  • How many of these students received a principal's suspension: Black, Hispanic, other?

    For some parents, news of the survey has led to disturbing questions from their kids.

    "About their race, about, 'Mom, because I'm Hispanic, does that mean I'm going to be treated differently or I behave bad?" parent Delores Gonzalez said.

    The Department of Education says, "The survey was inappropriate and the principal has issued a formal apology."

    The principal did not respond to phone message left by Eyewitness News. Her apology, in a letter to parents and teachers, spoke of the survey as part of legitimate school research, but she says: "Although I believed that my intentions were honorable, on reflection I realize that my approach was inflammatory and for that I assume total responsibility...therefore, kindly accept this letter of apology."

    Students may also be due an apology.

    "It's racist to other people and rude," student Jada Bennett said.

    Some parents say they feel very strongly that the principal and two other staff members at PS 96 should be dismissed. There is no indication the Department of Education is considering that step, but the matter has been referred to its Office of Special Investigations


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