Near-riot at school after bathroom privileges revoked

December 10, 2010 2:50:20 PM PST
Students at Murray Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan ended a much more peaceful day of classes on Friday, but some say the atmosphere was tense.

"It was about to start another riot today, but security came real fast. Everything was planned out and they just stopped it right away," student Leo Feliz said.

Some students took cell phone video as hundreds of their schoolmates staged unruly protests in the hallways on Thursday.

It happened shortly after Principal Andrea Lewis banned student bathroom passes for the day.

"It was just the way she went about it, and she said, 'Oh, no bathroom... everybody can't go to the bathroom.' What does two people fighting have to do with 3-thousand kids not going to the bathroom?" student Brandon Phillips said.

"It was chaos. We overreacted. I think we overreacted, but at the end of the day, she didn't have to be so assertive about everything," student Cynthia Solano said.

One of the two students involved in a fight on the 3rd floor was injured, taken to a hospital, but released.

Another student, who wants to remain anonymous, says there were problems with the principal before the fight.

"It was a protest against her because she's been doing a lot of things that are wrong," he said.

The hallway disturbance was said to be a case of students acting out their past frustrations.

"We were coming into the school year with just open arms for her, but she just really got mean to everyone; the whole student body and to the teachers," the student said.

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew met with officials from the school and from the Department of Education. He called Lewis' actions inappropriate.

"What happened yesterday was absolutely a problem," he said. "And that's why we can't have that. I mean, you cannot have a building that goes out of control. And this is what we were concerned with. Because you have kids who were upset and were frightened, you have teachers put in harm's way. And that's just not acceptable.

This comes on the heels of several other violent incidents in New York City schools, including one in which a teacher was punched and another in which a teacher suffered a miscarriage while breaking up a fight.

"This is a very, very troubling trend we are seeing," Mulgrew said. "What has happened over the last few days has us greatly concerned. We've have teachers who have been really harmed and one really horrendous tragedy."

The union and the Department of Education are continuing to investigate the incident.

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