NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York City public school has been embroiled in allegations of abuse, and one parent alleged the assistant principal covered it up.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, officials at P.S. 373-R on Staten Island admitted that one of its teacher’s aides shoved a 5-year-old autistic boy to the ground, but never alerted his parents.
The boy’s mother is now home-schooling her son, and said she plans to file a lawsuit.
Theresa Brown-Zapken said it is bad enough that her son, Brendan, was allegedly pushed to the ground by a paraprofessional. But she said she now also feels angry and shameful that she had to dig up details about it when the administration tried to keep it hidden.
Brown-Zapken is keeping a close eye on Brendan these days. She has been extra-protective since yanking him out of the school.
Brendan has extremely limited verbal skills and could never tell his mother what was allegedly happening at school.
“It’s not easy having children with a special needs or a diagnosis,” Brown-Zapken said.
The more than 300-page file on the 5-year-old details it all.
On March 26 of last year, witnesses in Brendan’s classroom told administrators that paraprofessional Robin Sapienza “began yelling at him and roughly moving his fingers away from his mouth. He became increasingly upset and began crying and screaming. Robin then grabbed him by his shirt and threw him on the floor.”
The files detail the meetings with administrators, but never any alert to the parents.
“I was very upset,” Brown-Zapken said. “I wanted to know why they lied. I wanted to know why they hadn’t told us.”
Brendan’s mother only found out by chance, when the boy’s godfather happened to go on a date with someone who worked at the school a month after the incident.
It turned out the paraprofessional was suspended in 2014 for inflicting corporal punishment on another student, and was suspended for 10 days in the incident involving Brendan.
“Now we know that the woman has assaulted up to at least four other children, and this was just going to be something else that they were just going to push under the rug,” Brown-Zapken said.
The city Department of Education would not comment on the case due to pending litigation. But the department did confirm that the paraprofessional is still working at the school.