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To Principal Greer Phillips,
Assistant Principals Jason Sand and Mildred Rodriguez-Ortiz,
Public School 79M / 55 EAST 120 STREET / MANHATTAN / NY / 10035
As you know, HoranWatch started its work following what you would describe as a drill. The 300 children and young adults you targeted don’t call it a drill. The other victims, their self sacrificing teachers, nurses, counselors, paraprofessionals and therapists also don’t call it a drill. Only the people who illegally planned it in secret call it a drill. The people who fell to the floor shaking, in prayer, or with their bodies in order to cover immobile students and friends don’t call it a drill. Nor do the teachers who pushed their bodies against doors as you sent your team to push back against them, like shooters would. Like a shooter did only only 2 school days prior. When those teachers called their partners, children, and friends to say good bye, they did not use the word drill. They used the words you designed as part of this intricate hoax then channeled through in the most dramatic way possible through every intercom in the building, “Shooter/Intruder in the building, oh my God!”. Then they were rendered immobile with contrary messages, “Get out, get out!” and “Lock down!”.
There are other people who would not call this a drill. There are an average of 500 to 1000 parents and family members of these kids who may also have a word for what you did. But even 30 days since your assault, in an effort to save your own skin, they cannot because you have prevented them from finding out what happened to their kids. Perhaps, as a parent yourself, you understand the response that would follow. Especially from parents of kids who, because of their disabilities, cannot speak for themselves.
Because of your continuing threats and retaliation on teachers for speaking out about this, and your complete and ongoing disregard for the welfare of these 300 kids, their rights as students, citizens, and minors, and the rights of their parents, HoranWatch set out to assemble 300 allies. One voice for each child.
We now have over 20,000 allies. These are parents, doctors, attorneys, psychologists, activists, students, disability advocates, child abuse advocates, school teachers, and even fellow principals. These are also volunteers who have offered any energy we need to make sure you can no longer sweep these children under the rug.
Let us introduce you.
Mental health professionals are warning us that every day these kids go without the post-trauma care, puts them in deeper and unnecessary mental health risk, and that you, as the leader of NYC’s largest special education school of its kind, know this. They warn that this is traumatic enough for any kid, but aimed at kids who spent their entire lives struggling to overcome mental health obstacles, should be considered medical malpractice. One LCSW warned, “If an adult abused a child on the street, they would be punished. If an adult entrusted with their care abused a child, they would be punished and fired. If an adult does it to 300 kids, they are unpunished and keep their job?”
Disability advocates are warning that you’re violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by taking advantage of your students’ inability to report this to their parents. Latinos and immigrants are wondering if you’re taking advantage of their parents who overwhelmingly speak only Spanish. Education activists call to question the fact that your kids are segregated from conventional schools, possibly allowing you to treat them less than you would students who were integrated. Urban planners point out that because all these kids are bussed in from across the city, there is no geography binding them to the community, resulting in virtually no Parent Teacher Association and complete isolation from your community, its houses of worship, neighboring schools, and even its own elected officials. An Occupier has stated than an executive who drives in from an upstate town with a poverty rate between of 1% to work where the poverty rate is 44%, should be expected to do much more in terms of relating to their kids and labor force. Especially as they earn an annual tax payer funded pay rate of $133,000 to do so.
Are they all right? Have you gotten away with this for over a month because these are indeed the most vulnerable, marginalized children in the country? Latino. Black. Immigrant. Language. Minors. Displaced from their own communities. Overwhelmingly impoverished. With multiple disabilities.
If this is true, it must also be true that those very same marginalized groups will come out in full force for these kids.
So we write you having exhausted all city and state agencies. While they have agreed to investigate you. And while the union has agreed to protect their members. No agency has agreed to come to the aid of these kids to provide their immediate needs and the defend the rights of their parents to know.
“Because of this, the HoranWatch campaign will be honoring the Martin Luther King holiday by organizing our supporters to reach these parents directly. Thanks to the bus strike, we will finally be able to meet them.”
We hope you respond to this letter before that. We hope that you promise us that you will reach the parents. We would much rather you do. It is your job. It is what tax payers and parents pay you for. And it is your final opportunity to redeem yourself in one respect and avoid that question that will be posed to you in a court of law, “after the drill, why didn’t you tell the parents?”.
If you and your administration continue to sweep these kids under the rug, we will dedicate everything to making sure there is no rug.
For your consideration,