Brooklyn mom says daughter was abused at school
This Brooklyn mom wants justice for her child.
Lanisha Harris of Canarsie says her daughter, Ariana Branch, is traumatized and scared to go to school since she was manhandled in kindergarten class at Brooklyn Public School 279, leaving cuts and bruises on the girl’s arm.
Harris said she reported the matter to PS 279 administrators but the staffer allegedly responsible remains on the job in Ariana’s class.
Harris said her daughter, who’s five years old, was devastated by the incident.
“I’m concerned for my daughter’s safety and I’m concerned about her being re-traumatized,” said Harris, 44, a community coordinator.
“Every time she’s getting dressed, she notices the scars on her arms and says, ‘mom they didn’t go away’,” Harris said of her daughter. “I feel overwhelmed and drained.”
Harris said she learned of the matter on April 3 when she returned home from work and Ariana told her that she’s been hurt in class that day by a teaching assistant.
“She said, ‘mommy, mommy, (the assistant) scratched me’,” Harris said. “She said, ‘She put her nails in me and scratched me’.”
Harris said her daughter told her that she’d been dragged out of a chair and across a classroom rug by the assistant teacher, and showed bruises and cuts on her arm to prove it.
Harris took photos of Ariana’s arms and said she tried to report the matter to the 69th precinct but officers refused to take her report and told her the school would handle it.
Harris said PS 279 Principal Lorenzo Chambers told her in a meeting on Tuesday that he is investigating the matter and will have an update with his findings for her on Wednesday.
But Harris also said that PS 279 administrators refused to view photos of Ariana’s injuries and did not have her examined by a school nurse, leading Harris to believe that the school is not taking the matter seriously.
Harris wants her allegations investigated by someone outside the school and wants the assistant teacher removed from her daughter’s class in the meantime.
The assistant teacher and Chambers both failed to respond to requests for comment.
City Education Department spokesman Doug Cohen said Chambers originally reported Harris’s accusations to the Department’s Office of Special Investigation, but officials there sent the matter back to Chambers for a school-based investigation.
Cohen also said that Chambers reviewed the photos Harris took for Ariana’s arm, which is something Harris disputes.
“All classrooms must be safe and supportive learning environments, and we take these allegations extremely seriously,” said Cohen of Harris’s charges. “The principal is conducting a diligent investigation and we’ll take appropriate follow up action.”
Harris said she’ll be holding a press conference outside the school on Wednesday with advocate Rev. Kevin McCall, president of the Crisis Action Center.
McCall said the city should conduct an independent investigation of the allegations.
“We don’t have the faith in this principal conducting a fair investigation of what has happened at all,” said McCall. “The Department of the Education and the police have failed this family.”