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24879: Craig (news) School Official Faces Firing
School Official Faces Firing Over Mistreatment of Haitians
*By SUSAN SAULNY *
Published: April 26, 2005
School officials said yesterday that they have begun proceedings to fire
an administrator at a Queens elementary school after investigators
confirmed that she recently called a group of Haitian students animals
and ordered them to eat lunch without utensils on a gymnasium floor.
But the investigators said they did not find sufficient evidence to
substantiate a claim from some of the students and their parents that
the administrator, Nancy Miller, an assistant principal at Public School
34 in Queens Village, made a derogatory statement about their Haitian
The students had asserted that Ms. Miller called them animals one day
last month and made them eat on the floor because that is the way people
eat in Haiti, "like animals." Parents and their supporters protested
outside the school two weeks ago and called for Ms. Miller's termination.
"This is wholly unacceptable behavior and should never have happened,"
Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said. He added, "I anticipate that Ms.
Miller will be removed from her job as assistant principal and from the
school, and that we will begin termination proceedings against her."
Mr. Klein also said that Ms. Miller would not be allowed to return to
the school and that she is scheduled to have a disciplinary conference
later this week.
Releasing its findings in a 22-page report, the school system's Office
of Special Investigations largely upheld what the children - a group of
fourth- and fifth-grade students in a bilingual Creole and English class
- said happened during lunchtime at the school on March 16. The report
included 27 interviews with student and adult witnesses, many
interviewed multiple times. It also scrutinized written accounts that
some of the students involved in the incident wrote just days after it
In the report, the investigators said they found the students' claims
credible because of the consistency of their accounts and their demeanor
while being interviewed.
One fourth-grade girl told an investigator, "I was upset because Ms.
Miller called us animals and made us sit on the floor and eat with our
Another student said: "People were looking at us. We were embarrassed.
There was a girl laughing."
Ms. Miller denied many of the allegations. But the investigation did not
find all of Ms. Miller's account to be credible.
According to the report, Ms. Miller said she thought the class was
finished with lunch when she seated them on the floor, which she
described as an attempt to separate several misbehaving children who had
been pushing and shoving in the lunch line. She also said she never used
the word "animal."
A spokesman for the union that represents Ms. Miller said the office was
closed yesterday and that no one was available to comment on the case.
The executive director of the Haitian Centers Council, Dr. Henry Frank,
did not return several calls for comment yesterday. Dr. Frank, a leading
voice of the Haitian community, became involved after parents asked him
to intervene because they were not getting any responses to their
complaints from school officials.
The school was closed yesterday for spring break.