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Congresswoman Grace Meng

Representing the 6th District of New York

Queens Elected Officials Demand Answers About Harassment and Sexual Assault of Students at Marie Curie Middle School (M.S. 158) in Bayside

Jan 16, 2020
Press Release
Meng, Vallone, Liu, Grodenchik, Koo, Rozic and Braunstein send letter to NYC Schools Chancellor
QUEENS, NY – Today, Queens elected officials – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, Councilman Paul Vallone, State Senator John Liu, Councilman Barry Grodenchik, Councilman Peter Koo, and Assemblymembers Nily Rozic and Ed Braunstein – announced that they sent a letter to New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza demanding answers about reports of harassment and sexual assault of students at Marie Curie Middle School (M.S. 158) in Bayside.
 
According to recent reports, school personnel did little to address the sexual harassment of an eighth grader, and failed to stop an attack in which a 13-year-old student was beaten. In addition, another student was reportedly sexually abused when a classmate forcibly put his finger in his rectum.
 
“These reported incidents are horrifying, and the apparent lack of action is deeply troubling and absolutely unacceptable,” said Congresswoman Meng. “No student should be subjected to harassment and violence at school. Our schools must be safe and welcoming environments for each and every student. When students are in school, they should be focused on learning, not worrying about their safety. Chancellor Carranza must immediately address the issues we’ve raised, and I await his reply to our letter. As the mother of two young boys who attend local public schools, I firmly believe that nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of our children.”
 
“As a representative and a parent, I am deeply disturbed by the recent incidents that have taken place at M.S. 158,” said Councilman Vallone. “When Chancellor Carranza comes to District 26 on Thursday, we expect answers and a clear action plan for this troubled school."
 
“Students must feel safe and secure in their classrooms, and parents and teachers must trust that schools and the Department of Education will address problems swiftly, effectively and fairly,” said State Senator Liu. “Recent reports from this middle school indicate that procedures are not firmly in place to deal with incidents of harassment. We are ready to work with the school community and DOE to improve their response and ensure our school children can learn without fear.”
 
“The Education Department must have zero tolerance for harassment or violence in our schools,” said Councilman Grodenchik. “Every student has a right to learn in a safe environment.”
 
“It must be the first priority of the DOE to ensure the safety and security of all children within its walls,” said Councilman Koo. “Concerns of harassment of any kind must be treated with the utmost sincerity and sensitivity so that our students, parents and teachers can remain confident in the integrity of our school system.”
 
“The reports coming out of M.S. 158 Marie Curie send an alarming message that students’ safety is in jeopardy,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “Families deserve peace of mind in knowing that their children’s safety is of the utmost priority and that no effort is spared to ensure appropriate steps are being taken to hold individuals accountable. I look forward to the completion of DOE’s ongoing investigation and working with my colleagues to identify a solution that strengthens student protections and restores stability within the school.”
 
"I am deeply concerned by reports of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault at M.S. 158,” said Assemblyman Braunstein. “I join with my colleagues in demanding answers from DOE on what changes will be made to ensure that our students can learn in a secure and supportive environment."
 
A copy of the letter can be viewed here and the text of the correspondence is below.
 
_____________________
 
Richard A. Carranza
Chancellor
New York City Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
 
Dear Chancellor Carranza:
 
We write to share our urgent concerns regarding multiple cases of sexual assault and harassment within your schools.
 
Recently, several disturbing reports of harassment and sexual assault have surfaced at Marie Curie Middle School in Bayside, NY. In one case, despite repeated harassment occurrences, it seems there was a clear failure of notifying appropriate individuals, including the victims’ own parents. These incidences bring immense and immediate concern regarding your oversight and process to protect your students.
 
As such, we request prompt answers to the following questions:
 
1.    Per your 15-page regulation on student-to-student sexual harassment, are designated mandatory reporters, teachers and school staff, reporting incidents within 24 hours? Are schools filing reports to you within the required two days? After the principal/designee investigates all claims, are they filing the report within 10 days to the state? What process have you implemented to investigate if all responsible parties are following the required process in these cases of sexual assault?
 
2.    What process have you implemented to investigate why parents were not notified of the trauma inflicted upon their children?
 
3.    How will you improve your process to provide timely feedback to parents/guardians after each sexual assault allegation?
 
4.    The NYC Ed Dept regulation indicates: “When one student uses a pattern of threatened or actual physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse to control a dating partner or in cases of sexual violence, the school should refer the victim and the accused student to separate appropriate school or community-based agencies for counseling, support, and education.” When the victim and the accused student are transferred to a new school, what measures are put in place for the victim and their family to heal from the trauma, and for the accused student to receive help?
 
Further, New York State has the most aggressive policies in the nation, “the Enough is Enough Law,” to fight against sexual assault on college campuses, but violations of Title IX are a dire problem in primary and secondary schools as well. To produce lasting changes, we urge you to work with state leaders to confront harassment and sexual assault as a priority issue that is threatening the wellbeing of your students every day. New York City schools must augment its response and investigative services, training for teachers and staff, prevention education, crisis support, and overall communications.
 
You are charged with the responsibility to lead the largest school system in the nation, educating 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. Your fundamental priority must be ensuring a safe and equitable education for each of your students. We urge you to uphold your obligation to work with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to vigorously enforce Title IX law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded institutions.
 
We strongly urge you to make immediate changes to your investigative processes for harassment and sexual assault cases so schools are, once again, a place of learning without fear. After all, a single victim is one too many.
 
Sincerely,