Parents Allege Principal Concealed Incident of Second Grader Bringing Knife to Classmate at Target

Parents are demanding the removal of the controversial principal of P.S. 398 in Queens after she failed to inform them about a student bringing a knife to school. The student had reportedly expressed intentions to use it to attack a fellow second-grader, potentially due to a romantic rivalry. The principal, Erica Ureña-Thus, waited three days before notifying the school community about the incident, and took an additional two days to speak with parents. Two other students witnessed the second grader with the knife, and a staff member confiscated it. Two days later, the boy who brought the knife physically threatened one of the classmates. The principal finally notified the school community a day later, after a public message was posted on P.S. 398’s internal communications board.

According to two mothers, they only heard directly from the school administration about the incident through the public message. One mother expressed concern for her son’s well-being and highlighted the emotional impact the incident had on him. The school community was not formally informed of the subsequent threat made by the boy who brought the knife until a letter was received a week later. The principal allegedly instructed teachers not to discuss the incident, citing student privacy protocols.

The Department of Education is conducting a thorough review of allegations made against the principal since earlier this year. Over a thousand parents and supporters have signed a petition demanding Ureña-Thus’ removal. Parents are frustrated with the lack of immediate communication and the Education Department’s response to the incident. They feel that the principal failed to follow safety protocols and provided limited information. The principal’s handling of the situation has raised concerns among parents, with some describing it as a “huge red flag” and feeling gaslighted.

An email from the assistant principal to one of the concerned parents said that an investigation had been conducted and a plan of action was developed to support the student who made the threat. The school found that the threat constituted a violation of DOE rules against discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying, but not student-to-student harassment. The United Federation of Teachers also criticized the school administration’s response and called for a safe school environment.

Parents are struggling to explain the situation to their children and are seeking answers and support from the school. They are calling for the principal’s resignation and expressing their frustration with the lack of attention to the matter.

[Image Description: P.S. 398 in Jackson Heights, Aug. 28, 2023.]

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