NEW YORK – New York City middle school teacher Kathy Perez was taunted and trampled by her students, shoved to the floor and threatened with violence repeatedly, according to her lawsuit against the city.
In one case, a student stood on table and “pretended to hump his backpack” while telling Perez “you know you want to drop your pants. I’m gonna give it to you hard,” the New York Post quoted from the suit.
“One girl sprayed perfume in Perez’s face. The same girl taped sanitary pads colored with red markers around the room, shouting at Perez: ‘Nobody wants to see your nasty period on the wall, dumbass!’” according to the news site.
The incidents are among numerous episodes of outrageous behavior from students at Catherine Count Basie Middle School in Queens that Perez claims her superiors did virtually nothing about, leading to injuries including five herniated discs in her back, two in her neck, and a torn meniscus.
Perez’s injuries required back and knee surgeries, and she filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education in state court in 2012 for personal injuries. She filed a second civil rights lawsuit in federal court the next year, the Post reports.
“These kids knew they could beat on me all they wanted, and the administration would tacitly encourage it by not doing anything about it,” Perez told the news site. “In no other workplace would I be expected to take this as part of my day.”
This spring, Perez settled with the city education department for $125,000, records show.
An increasing number of teachers like Perez are speaking out against a rise in student violence at school tied to a relatively new approach to student discipline designed to reduce a disproportionately high amount of suspensions for minority students. School districts across the country have implemented “restorative justice” student discipline policies that replace out-of-school suspensions with talking circles, student-created punishments, and other nonconsequential discipline.
The restorative justice approach is promoted by the Obama administration through intense pressure on many large school districts to reduce minority suspensions. But most teachers – in Oakland, Los Angeles, St. Paul, New York City, and numerous other districts – claim students quickly realize there’s little consequence for their bad behavior and classrooms turn to chaos.
In one incident in Perez’s classroom, a male student was swinging around a collapsible cane and nearly clocked Perez and other students with it before he was removed from class. Perez contends the dean spoke with the student, then sent him back to class minutes later with the cane.
The teacher contends that any time she attempted to regain control, students accused her of being a racist.
“It’s because I have a flat top (haircut) and I’m black you f***in racist,” the lawsuit quoted from one student.
Others students, the suit claims, called her “white bitch” and threw rocks and pencils at her.
The Post notes that principal Omotayo Cineus testified that she removed students and “children were spoken to and parents were spoken to.”
The lawsuit contends that Perez’s children wrote emails to Cineus complaining that they were concerned for their mother at school, and Perez was reprimanded for “inappropriate communication with superiors.”
Cineus did not return the Post’s call for comment.