No Consent: Says Teacher Showed R-Rated Movies To Kids

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[Education: Without Parental Consent]

The mother of a current 12th grader at a Lower East Side school has complained that school officials have been retaliating against her daughter ever since the girl complained about a teacher who showed "R"-rated movies in her class last year.

The movies shown in the class were "Requiem For A Dream," "KIDS," and "Pink Floyd’s The Wall," the mother said.

A Board of Education spokesperson confirmed that the films were shown without parental authorization to students at the school, Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law, at 350 Grand Street, in Manhattan. 

"The investigation was substantiated and the teacher was disciplined," a Board of Education spokesperson said, regarding the films, in an e-mail response to The Black Star News. The spokesperson said an "Unsatisfactory" reprimand letter was placed in the teacher's file and that she was to have no interaction with the student.

Vanessa Sosa, the mother of the girl, in an interview with The Black Star News, said after her daughter complained the school’s principal tried to get the mother to sign a backdated letter to make it appear as if she granted authority for her daughter to see the movies.

The Black Star News is withholding the girl’s name.

After the incident, the teacher, Erin Elman, who teaches art, health as well as music, identified her daughter to the rest of the class as the snitch who had complained to the authorities, Sosa said.

The teacher has maintained a grudge against her daughter since the incident, Sosa claims. She said in March her daughter was prevented from going on a school trip out of town with the rest of her classmates. She said teachers at the school claim they found liquor in her daughter’s bag on the morning they were supposed to go on the trip. Sosa believes her daughter was set up.

"I searched my daughter’s bag on the morning of the trip; the school had told all students that their bags would be searched," Sosa, who added that she personally drove her daughter to school, said. "There was no alcohol in my daughter’s bag.

"Sosa said the school’s principal, Joaquin Tamayo, has refused to return the $270 that she paid for her daughter to go on the trip.

The incident that’s most troubling however, Sosa said, occurred after her daughter wasn’t allowed on the school trip. She said her daughter, was distraught upon learning she would be left behind. The daughter then went into the bathroom; when she tried to emerge, Elman, the same teacher who had shown the "R"-rated films, held on to the door knob from the outside, locking the girl inside against her will.

The incident was captured on a school security surveillance videotape which was later viewed by Sosa and Tamayo, Sosa said. "It shows the door opening and shutting, opening and shutting. It shows the teacher holding to the door knob," Sosa said, of Elman, in the video.

The School’s assistant principal, David Glasner, can then be seen approaching the teacher, who then let go of the door knob. Sosa’s daughter can then be seen running out of the bathroom, Sosa said.

Tamayo, before leaving on the school trip then approached Sosa’s daughter, who had fled to the assistant principal’s office and taunted the girl, saying, "We’re all leaving on the trip but you’re not," the mother said, relaying what her daughter told her.

"These allegations were investigated by the Assistant Principal of Supervision and corporal punishment was not substantiated," Marge Feinberg, the Board of Ed spokesperson said, in an e-mail message, without elaboration, when informed of the bathroom incident.

Feinberg did not respond to an e-mailed message inquiry about whether officials at the Board of Education had actually reviewed the video of the bathroom incident.

Tamayo, the principal, when contacted for a response to the mother’s allegations, initially did not return several phone messages from The Black Star News. Tamayo eventually left a message, after The Black Star had contacted the Board of Education; the Board subsequently said it was responding on the principal’s behalf.

Elman did not return a message from The Black Star News seeking comment, which was left on her cell phone and at the school.

A former dean who was in charge of discipline at the school, George Escalante, says the principal, Tamayo, is too lax and failed to deal with many problems while he was still at the school.

He said Tamayo allowed Elman to get away with several transgressions.

He claims Elman once allowed five students, ranging from ages 14 to 17, to drink alcohol inside her classroom, after she saw them holding bottles of the liquor, called 99 Bananas, outside the school.

"One of the students told me she told them ‘When I was younger I used to go inside my school and find a corner to drink so we wouldn’t get caught.’"

The student told Escalante that Elman opened the classroom door for them, then left them unsupervised to drink the liquor.

Escalante, 30, said when Tamayo failed to discipline Elman, he suspended the students, and later filed a formal complaint to the Board of Education. In the complaint, Escalante also detailed allegations by other students that Elman, provided them with cigarettes. He said his complaint was never investigated and that he was never interviewed.

He said he gave the student who came forward with information, a mild form of suspension; she was allowed to come to school for two hours every day for three days, before the suspension was lifted. The other three students who attended Urban Assembly were given two week suspensions. One of the individuals didn’t even attend Urban Assembly; she attended another school within the same building, Escalante said.

Escalante said whenever there was a problem at the school, Tamayo would always say, "’I’ll handle it.’ The problem is he never handled it."

The Board of Education spokesperson did not respond to an e-mailed question about the alleged drinking incident.

Escalante said he was also contacted by students about the films Elman showed, and that he rented "Requiem…" He said, the movie features a young Marlin Wayans, and added: "There is nudity involved. At the end of the movie, two females are totally naked pleasuring each other with a dildo. It's very graphic."

The movie, "KIDS" features a young Rosario Dawson, Escalante, who said he also rented the movie added. "One of the stars of the movie goes around trying to have sex with little girls," Escalante, who also rented the movie after one of the students informed him about it, said. "At the end everyone drinks and passes out at a party. Then one of the young boys wakes up and rapes a girl."

The front jacket cover of the movie’s DVD states: "This Critically Acclaimed Film Is For Mature Audiences Only. Parental Discretion Is Advised."

At the end of the 2007 school year, in June, Escalante said he was told by Tamayo that the Urban Academy would no longer need his services the following year because the position of dean was being eliminated.

He was let go but since then the school has hired two new deans, he said.

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