It's the kind of spat that flares thousands of times a day in schools all over the country. But at Public School 34 in Queens Village, Assistant Principal Nancy Miller's ghastly way of handling a minor scuffle between two Haitian fourth-graders has sparked fury.For now, these are allegations, but they are deeply disturbing ones.
According to parents and students, Miller, who is white, chose to punish all 13 Haitian pupils in the school's only fourth-grade bilingual class -- even though just two were involved in the March 16 incident.
She ordered all 13 to sit on the cafeteria floor, then made them use their fingers to eat their lunch of chicken and rice, while all the other students watched.
"In Haiti, they treat you like animals, and I will treat you the same way here," several students recalled Miller saying. Some of the punished fourth-graders were so humiliated they began to cry. A few begged Miller for spoons to eat.
... [Several] parents complained to the principal, Pauline Shakespeare. They claim that Shakespeare, who is black, tried to cover for Miller. They also claim school officials tried to bribe the kids with ice cream to deny the incident happened!
... When I reached Miller by phone yesterday, she would only say, "I can't talk about it, because it is under investigation."
There are a lot of conscientious, hard-working teachers and staff who work in public schools. But those efforts can easily be trumped by the actions of a cruel, uncaring individual.