By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Officials at Brooklyn’s P.S. 219 mishandled an 11-year-old’s complaint of sexual abuse, a report by NYC’s Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) revealed.
The investigation found that Assistant Principal Patricia Sabater and Guidance Counselor Rebecca Shaffren mismanaged a complaint made by female student who had alleged that she was sexually abused by male students.
The investigation began in May 2011, when Principal Winsome Smith contacted SCI and filed a complaint against Sabater. Smith stated that Sabater failed to report an incident of student sexual abuse that the victim reported months earlier, in March 2011. Smith said she only learned about this incident on May 19, 2011, when police officers investigating a complaint made by the student’s parents notified her of the abuse.
The female student told SCI investigators and detectives from the Brooklyn’s Child Abuse Squad that the abuse began at the start of the 2010-11 school year, when she began having problems with two particular male students at the school.
According to the victim, these students touched her breasts and buttocks, rubbed up against her, then threw her on the floor and pushed themselves on top of her. On one occasion, they approached her from behind and pulled down her pants.
Abused on a daily basis, the victim asserts that she made complaints and reports of the abuse to Sabater and Shaffren. But after nothing was remedied, the victim claims that she was disillusioned and refused to make any further complaints.
A fellow student and a teacher claimed to have witnessed some form of abuse, with one teacher, Augusta Ahmad, recounting for investigators an incident where she observed the alleged abuser grabbing the victim from behind, putting his hands on her hips and swinging them back and forth.
The victim yelled, “Stop, don’t touch me!” at which point Ahmad reprimanded the male student. Ahmad attests that she brought the incident to Sabater’s attention.
Sabater says she initially cooperated with the investigation, and Shaffren assured her that there was “nothing to the complaint” made by the female student, and that everything was a mere misunderstanding of children playing around. Sabater then stopped her participation in the investigation and refused to answer any more questions.
Investigators subsequently sought a subpoena to compel participation. Sabater fought back, and the Manhattan Supreme Court and Appellate Court denied the enforcement of the subpoena.
Depsite Sabater’s refusal to take part, the investigation concluded that appropriate “disciplinary action” be taken against Shaffren for her role in failing to report or address the abuse claims.
It was further recommended “Sabater’s employment be terminated, that she be made ineligible for work with the DOE, and that this matter is considered should she apply for any position with the New York City school system, with one of its vendors, or in one of its facilities in the future.”