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Carranza apologizes to parents of sexually abused Marie Curie Middle School student

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza speaks advocates for mayoral control of the New York City public school system at a state Assembly hearing on Dec. 16. (Photo by Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech)

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza apologized to the parents of a student who was allegedly sexually abused at M.S. 158 Marie Curie Middle School in Bayside for avoiding questions from the girl’s father at a public meeting earlier this month. 

Starting last September, the eighth-grader was sexually harassed for months by a male classmate who repeatedly asked for sex and once pulled down his pants and groped her, according to the New York Post. The abuse was just one of several similar incidents on the school’s grounds, according to a letter from Congresswoman Grace Meng, that were not properly reported to the appropriate authorities. 

“I in no way, shape or form want to show any disrespect to any parent that wants to be heard, and I apologize because as a parent myself, I can only imagine the pain parents are feeling when their children have been hurt,” said Carranza during a Panel for Educational Policy meeting at Murry Bergtraum High School in lower Manhattan on Wednesday, Jan. 29. The chancellor agreed to meet with the student’s parents in person adding that the Community Education Council 26 (CEC) meeting was not the appropriate place for such a conversation. “What I will not do is have a public spectacle,” Carranza said.  

After refusing to respond to the father’s questions about safety at Marie Curie Middle School during the CEC meeting on Jan. 17, Carranza abruptly ended the forum and left after 40 minutes, according to QNS.com.  Normally, CEC meetings last for several hours. Tensions were then raised when Carranza suggested that the parents were “agitators” from outside of the school district who were planted to rile up the audience during a press conference on the effectiveness of the city’s community schools on Jan. 28. And that it was CEC 26 President Adriana Aviles who adjourned the meeting. The CEC has since argued otherwise releasing a statement placing the blame on Carranza for ending the rowdy meeting due to “safety concerns.”

“It was a setup,” said Carranza. “I will talk to parents I will meet with parents but I will not be set up especially when that meeting could not be controlled.” After a few elected officials like state Senators Julia Salazar and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Jimmy Van Bramer  and Antonio Reynoso praised Chancellor Carranza for his passion and commitment to the city’s children, legislators including state Senator John Liu, chairman of the New York City Education Committee, and Congresswoman Grace Meng fired back at the schools chancellor, calling on him to return to the district and address parent concerns about safety at the middle school.  

Carranza apologized during the last five minutes of the over three-hour-long PEP meeting where he faced further criticism from members on his stance towards CEC 22 member Dr. Jackie Cody who referred to Asians as  “yellow folks” in a CEC e-mail chain last year. Asian parents and CEC members have called for Cody to be removed from the advisory board for months and did so again last night.  

Lucas Liu, from CEC 3, holds up 45 pages of an e-mail exchange between CEC members where CEC 22 member Jackie Cody referred to Asians as “yellow folks,” during a Panel for Educational Policy Meeting on Jan. 29, 2020. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Lucas Liu, from CEC 3, held a physical copy of the  e-mail chain—a total of 45 pages—where Cody used the slur. When asked about Cody’s language during the community schools press conference, Chancellor Carranza asked for those critical of Cody to “release the whole transcript” and check “who used insensitive language first.” Liu  took on the challenge and said that nobody but Cody said anything offensive. CEC 22 took disciplinary action and voted to suspend Cody for two months in early January. The chancellor has repeatedly said that he does not have the authority to remove Cody. 

“Asian families and children are waiting for you to act,” said Liu. “If it’s OK to say yellow today, what will it be OK to say tomorrow?”

Shortly before Carranza’s apology, the PEP voted to approve a new rule that allows students and teachers in New York City schools to access lactation rooms and for the merging of two Brooklyn schools, P.S 305 Dr. Peter Ray and the Academy of Arts & Letters. The Chancellor also said that the Department of Education  would send inspectors on Jan. 30. to Eagle Academy for Young Men in Jamaica were parents said a growing mold problem is infecting the school’s roof. 

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