Source: NY Times
A high school principal in Ozone Park, Queens, inappropriately touched or solicited sex from at least four male students at the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture, where he had served as principal since 2006, according a report by Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for the city’s Department of Education.
The principal, Quintin Cedeno, also made inappropriate comments, either spoken or by e-mail or text messages, to those students and at least four other male students, according to the report. The investigation began in October when a guidance counselor filed a sexual harassment complaint against Mr. Cedeno, saying that a 15-year-old student had accused the principal of proposing to perform oral sex on him.
The guidance counselor, Billieannette Lunsford, said that she also learned from a 16-year-old student that Mr. Cedeno had been sending inappropriate text messages, including one saying he was “mad u guys didn’t invite me” to spend time with them at night, according to the report.
Several students on the basketball team at the school would have breakfast in Mr. Cedeno’s office, where he slapped them on the buttocks several times, according to the report. One student told investigators that in the three years he had known Mr. Cedeno, the principal offered to perform oral sex on him about 15 different times, the report said. Another student said Mr. Cedeno had used the back of his hand to touch the student inappropriately about half a dozen times, the report said.
According to investigators, Mr. Cedeno called one student 37 times from his personal cellphone within two months, including one call at 9:41 p.m. that lasted nearly an hour and a half. Additionally, Mr. Cedeno sent the same student 126 text messages from his personal phone and another dozen from his city-issued cellphone. The report also details other sexually explicit conversations Mr. Cedeno is said to have had with several students.
Mr. Condon’s office has referred the findings to the Queens district attorney. A spokeswoman for the Education Department said that Mr. Cedeno was reassigned in October and that because he had not yet received tenure, would be fired immediately. Mr. Cedeno had worked for the department since 2003, when he was hired as a math teacher. As principal of Construction Trades, his current salary is $140,074. Attempts to reach him through his union Wednesday were not immediately successful.
A class-action suit filed Wednesday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn by the New York Civil Liberties Union and others states that the officers “engage in a policy and practice of unlawfully seizing and arresting schoolchildren,” in violation of the Fourth Amendment and state law. (See complaint below.)
The president of the union that represents school safety officers said he had not yet reviewed the lawsuit, but he added that the overwhelming majority of such officers perform their duties admirably.
In addition to damages, the suit seeks judicial orders that schools, rather than officers, deal with disciplinary issues; that the city establish a “transparent and meaningful mechanism” to lodge complaints about officers; and that the city impose new disciplinary measures for officers found guilty of misconduct.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the civil liberties union, said at a news conference in Lower Manhattan that school safety officers had wrongly arrested students who may have broken school rules but had not committed crimes.
“Students were handcuffed, arrested, perp-walked, jailed, pushed, shoved, kicked to the ground, threatened, taunted, injured, denied medical care, illegally interrogated, intimidated and humiliated,” she said.
Gregory Floyd, president Local 237 of the Teamsters, which represents the school safety officers, said that some disputes between students and officers could merit investigation, but that crime in schools had fallen significantly over the last several years, thanks in part to work by the school safety officers.
“If you look at the overall interaction of school safety agents with over a million children a day, we’re not talking about an epidemic of school safety agents being abusive,” he said by telephone.
A lawyer with the city’s Law Department, Celeste Koeleveld, said that the safety officer’s job was a difficult one. “Maintaining a safe environment for our children is paramount,” she said, “and it’s impossible to ignore the important balance — protecting children while keeping order — that they strive to meet every day.”
Several safety officers are also named as defendants in the suit.
The suit cites a widely reported 2007 case in which a student at East Side Community High School in Manhattan tried to enter school early and ended up being arrested after a confrontation with a school safety officer who would not let her in.
Other instances of misconduct alleged in the suit include a sixth grader at Hunts Point School in the Bronx handcuffed for drawing on a desk with an erasable marker and a ninth grader at Maxwell Career and Technical High School in East New York, Brooklyn, assaulted by school safety officers after she refused to surrender her book bag to one of them after it cleared the security checkpoint.
One plaintiff, a 13-year-old girl identified in court papers only as D.Y., appeared with Ms. Lieberman and said that she got into a disagreement with officers at the Lou Gehrig Junior High School in the Bronx last fall after she was threatened by unfamiliar adults outside the school. School safety officers instructed both D.Y. and the adults to go into the school building, D.Y. said, but she refused, preferring instead to wait outside for her mother. Then, she said, officers handcuffed her, tripped her, knelt on her back and taunted her.
The student’s mother, Donna Layne, said that she arrived at the school about an hour later to find her daughter still in cuffs.
“As a mother, this incident shook my world,” she said. “They abused her and it’s not right.”
Martey J. Williams, 41, was formally charged in the Dec. 8 stabbing of Jacqueline Reyes, 27, in the building at 100 Montgomery St.
Bail has been set at $1 million for Williams, but Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said Williams is at the Anne Klein Forensic Center in Trenton for further psychiatric evaluation after being judged a “danger to himself and others.”
Investigators believe that Williams had been staying in a stairwell inside the building because he was homeless.
Reyes’ baby son, Ivan Jr., was also stabbed several times in the attack.
The family’s attorney, Daryl Zaslow, said last week that the 10-month-old boy is currently in stable but critical condition at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York where he is getting special medical care due to his injuries.
Zaslow also described the husband Ivan Reyes as being in “utter shambles” from dealing with the overwhelming grief. The couple also has a 4-year-old daughter, whom Zaslow was dropping off at school when the murder occurred.
“If Mr. Reyes is not at his son’s bedside keeping vigil, he is explaining to his daughter why her mom is not there to take care of her,” Zaslow said.
Zaslow also said the family plans to file a lawsuit in the near future against Westgate Management Company, Inc. – which is the company that operates the building on behalf of the owners, Paulus Hook Community Housing – and DMS Security Services, based in Jersey City.
Zaslow said this lawsuit will address what he calls the “apathy and negligence” that led to Jacqueline Reyes’ murder.
Westgate Management did not return phone calls for comment on this story before it went to press.
A sense of security?
Zaslow said the lawsuit will address the minimal security measures that existed in the building at the time of Jacqueline Reyes’ murder.
Tenants have been vocal, especially in recent meetings with local police and elected officials. They claim that no security guards were at the desk during the day when Reyes was killed.
They also said that people other than tenants have had keys and got access into people’s apartments, and complained that there were not enough security cameras.
Zaslow said the building’s management was aware of tenants’ concerns about security in the 23-story, 308-unit low-and moderate-income building for at least two years. That was after a January 2008 incident in which tenant Gloria Correa suffered a fractured skull when an attacker hit her with an iron pipe and then dragged her to a nearby stairwell, where she bled for four hours before being discovered.
The attacker was never found.
“It was only after the death of a tenant that management is taking steps to make things better,” Zaslow said. “It’s obviously too little, too late.”
However, there have been some new security initiatives implemented in the building since last month, according to two tenants.
One tenant who has lived in the building for the past 30 years, who wanted to remain unnamed, said police have been patrolling the building “around the clock.” He said there is a security guard on duty during the morning hours. This tenant also said that she along with several other tenants changed the locks on their front doors.
Another tenant, Maria Cota-Pulowski, a five-year resident, said the security guard on duty is located closer to the front door and tenants now have to come down to the lobby to meet any visitors.
Pulowski said management is still supposed to install an intercom system so that a security guard can call up to a resident to let him or her know who is coming to visit. And Pulowski wants to see a new system of ID cards for tenants.
State police discovered the body of Dean Pierson, 59, in his Copake barn on Thursday. A visitor found a note Pierson had left on the barn door that said not to come in and to call police.
State police would only say that Pierson was having personal issues, the Register-Star reported.
The upstate hamlet of Copake is about 115 miles north of New York City.
Local farmers buried the cows outside the barn Friday. They would not discuss Pierson or what had happened, but one of the men said these are hard times to be a farmer.
Police were called to Saint Dominic’s Church on Lucius Avenue around 9:30 Saturday morning. When they got there, they found an 80-year-old woman slumped over in the drivers seat of her car.
“Right now, we’re preliminary investigating a robbery that turned into a homicide,” Youngstown Detective Captain Rod Foley said.
Police believe the woman stayed late after mass to pray. When she was walking to her car, a man robbed her and shot her in the head.
It’s only the 23rd day of 2010 and there’s already four murders in Youngstown.
“It’s pretty bad when you can’t go to church and you get shot at. You know what I mean?” St. Dominic’s Church member John Schneider said.
No one saw the murder take place but Saint Dom’s has security cameras around the parking lot. Police took the camera’s hard drive and are currently reviewing the video.
One man who goes to Saint Dom’s everyday said it’s common for men to approach church-goers in the parking lot asking for money.
“They have a lot of people coming around that try to beg you for money,” Schneider said. “Why don’t they just take the money and leave the person alone? Don’t kill them.”
The church does have a security guard, but it is unclear if he was working Saturday.
One parishioner saids he may have seen the suspect leave the parking lot and turn east onto Lucius Avenue. He said the man was African-American between 5′ 8″ and 5′ 10″ with a medium build.
While the church community is devastated by this tragedy, Saint Dominic’s did not want to comment on the murder at this time.
The 28 security guards who are on the payroll of the Office of Protective Services — a branch of the state Department of Developmental Services — will reportedly be replaced with cameras that will work in conjunction with PDC police.
The guards were notified Thursday, and they said the decision came as a complete surprise.
“These decisions are coming out of Sacramento,” security guard Robert Johnson said. “I don’t think they’re concerned about the health and safety of the community around here.”
Efforts to get a statement from Developmental Services were fruitless. PDC Executive Director John Sawyer was unavailable Friday afternoon and a staff member said media calls were to be directed to the agency’s Sacramento headquarters. Media contacts there do not currently work on Fridays due to state-mandated furloughs.
Located off Highway 190, the PDC is a state-run hospital for the severely developmentally disabled that operates 24/7. Like other state agencies, it has had cuts due to the California budget crisis, including three mandatory “furlough” days per month. Most PDC employees do not get the time off, however, but receive less pay and are credited with hours they may be able to take off in the future.
While PDC is one of five DDS facilities in the state, it is the only one to service individuals in the mild to moderate range of mental retardation, who have come in contact with the legal system and who have been determined to be a danger to themselves or others and, or incompetent to stand trial. These clients are sometimes referred to as “forensic” cases.
These are the clients who the security guards monitor.
Johnson, like the other security guards, is a member of the Services Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents 500 PDC employees.
“Our main objective is to watch and observe so that nobody escapes by climbing fences or digging under them,” Johnson said. “We also look out for the health and safety of staff when they’re intermingling with clients.”
He acknowledged, however, that clients sometimes escape, although infrequently.
“One of the reasons why we haven’t had more escapes is because of the security guards,” SEIU senior steward and PDC registered nurse Janet Alexander said.
Alexander said the layoffs will likely increase overtime hours at the facility that have skyrocketed since the summer.
She predicts the many of the security guards’ tasks will have to be fulfilled by the PDC police force come May.
In July, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger issued an order that required furloughs of three days a month through June 2010. The governor estimated savings at $1.4 billion a year.
In December, however, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (CAPT) found that its 759 local members worked 5,900 hours of overtime at PDC in November—a 257 percent increase since September.
CAPT estimated that the cost to taxpayers was up to $180,000 in November alone.
In court decisions affecting some state workers, the Governor has been ordered to discontinue furloughs. However, he has appealed these decisions to the state Supreme Court.
Local union representatives have consistently said that PDC is at the mercy of the state, which requires the hospital to operate 24/7 while meeting a strict client to staff ratio — in spite of the furloughs.
“[Executive Director} John Sawyer is doing all he can to see if there are other positions that are open,” Johnson said. “He’s looking out for us, he hates to see this happen. He’s doing all he can to alleviate any issues or problems.”
According to reports out of Dallas, the fourth grader was sent to the front office on Thursday afternoon when he asked the nurse if he could use the bathroom. Ten minutes later she found him unconscious in the stall. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.
This tragic case from Dallas brings youth suicide to the forefront everywhere. Why do teens sometimes feel there’s no way out?
In a moment of emotional pain teens can make a decision they don’t fully understand.
“It’s just desperation and they’re not in touch with how final it is,” explained Houston psychotherapist Eva Szego.
Szego’s been practicing for more than 20 years and has seen many types of suicidal depression.
“You go through a hurt and you don’t think you’ll ever feel anything else,” said Szego.
Teens often contemplate suicide because they feel all alone; them against the world. They forget there’s lots of help.
“When you get a teenager having problems and they’re already thinking it’s me against the world it’s harder to reach them. They’ve convinced themselves that they only can be alone,” said Szego.
According to Houston’s Teen Crisis Hotline, that’s when help needs to step in.
“You can just ask, ‘are you suicidal? I’ve learned these are some of the warning signs. Are you feeling ok? How can I help?’ is a good question,” said teen crisis counselor Wykisha McKinney.
Knowing those warning signs isn’t always easy, however. Sometimes they’re overt, but simply not noticed until someone makes an actual attempt at suicide.
“You just don’t think people are going to kill themselves,” said Szego. “You’re too close to the person to see the clues sometimes.”
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 15 – 24. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all Texans according to Texassuicideprevention.org. The site also says more Texans die each year from suicide than homicide.
“A lot of issues for teens are about being a part of a social group, and having a lot of friends, and having a relationship with someone,” said McKinney. “Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems and there are options.”
The most important thing a teen can do is talk. The Teen Crisis Hotline is 713-529-TEEN, or anyone can now text “teen” to 7-8-2-4-7. From there, counselors can help teens access thousands of local programs.
The Huntington Police Department put out a statement: “Based upon statements of two victims and independent witness accounts alleging that he had engaged in unwanted and uninvited groping of the two victims’ genital areas, Andrew R. Dick (AKA Andy Dick) of South Pasadena, California, was arrested and charged with two counts of Sex Abuse in the First Degree.”
According to the criminal complaint, Dick was talking to a man when he “unexpectedly and without invitation grabbed the victim’s crotch, repeatedly groping then kissing him.”
Also in the complaint, a security guard at a bar said that Dick “grabbed his crotch and began laughing” when the guard tried to give him an armband.
The comedian is currently on probation over a 2008 sexual assault incident where he was arrested for exposing himself to and groping a teenage girl. He avoided jail time, but was sentences to three.