PERTH AMBOY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — One might expect a forced march with a heavy backpack in the military, but such surely is not the usual routine for middle school students.
But as CBS2’s Lou Young reported Thursday, one school in Perth Amboy, New Jersey this week as looking into a bit of boot camp discipline that may have crossed the line.
The flap over discipline at the McGinnis School has landed two administrators and five teachers in hot water, after sixth graders were allegedly treated like military recruits.
“I think it’s horrible,” said mother Dilcy Zoprilla. “How are you going to put a kid to walk around with book bags and everything? Like, that’s horrible.”
The incident allegedly involved an unruly class, and the decision to instill discipline with a collective punishment — having the kids suit up with their heavy backpacks and walk inside the school all day for hours.
“It was because they don’t know how to follow directions, so the teacher just made them walk around the whole school,” said sixth grader Gerial Ignacio.
“They just kept walking up and down the stairs, and then they started walking down the hallways,” said eighth grader Pablo Gonzalez.
A number of students complained of back pain after the punishment was handed down on Friday. A note followed to parents, advising that five teachers, the assistant principal, and the principal had all been reassigned pending an investigation.
“I saw it. I saw it,” said sixth grader Stephanie Sosa. “I saw everything.”
Stephanie said principal Myra Garcia was in the thick of it.
“There was one student — he was stretching; he was going like that, and then Dr. Garcia yelled at him for that, and there was, like, students that needed to go to the bathroom,” she said.
But the march allegedly went on, with teachers acting as drill sergeants.
“They were walking around the school, that’s what I’m telling you, with their teachers. And if they said or did anything, they would yell at him,” said sixth grader Bernard Gomez-Cruz. “They would yell at them if they sneezed or talked or stretched.
The school now has two new top administrators, and the teachers have been reassigned.
A statement released Thursday by Perth Amboy School District attorney Derlys Gutierrez said, “The district expects its staff to adhere to policies and procedures relating to student discipline.”
Although state child abuse authorities have been investigating, the district said “the conduct did not involve any type of physical assault.”
It appears about 25 students were involved in the forced march. Students said at least four of them were pulled out of line and allowed to rest in a classroom during the incident.