Bensonhurst parents dish on bullying issues

Two Bensonhurst parents are charging that the Department of Education has failed their developmentally disabled daughters by not properly addressing bullying issues – charges that DOE denies.

Veronica Stein’s 15-year-old daughter has an Individual Education Plan and attended Brooklyn Studio Secondary School on Bay Parkway until October, 2012. She entered the school in sixth grade without any problems, but by the end of ninth grade the bullying got “really bad.”

Stein told this paper that her daughter’s former friends spread rumors about her to the principal and guidance counselor. She said that the administration took their stories as truth and never bothered to question her daughter about the situation.

“Now she is being home schooled, by me, which I have to pay for,” Stein said. “DOE should pay for it; they don’t do enough.”

According to DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg, there was an incident in September and parents were notified.

“There was an investigation,” she said, adding that she could not elaborate on the situation without violating the privacy of the students. “There was no indication of wrongdoing at the school.”

Karen Marrero has a 19-year-old daughter enrolled in John Dewey High School. Marrero said her child has been bullied since the end of 2009.

“It escalated to the point of her not going to school,” Marrero said. “They picked on her physically, verbally abusing her, grabbing her, threatening her on Facebook.”

When that stopped, the teen was then threatened by a boy. When she hit him in self-defense, she was suspended.

We got no statements from the school either time she was bullied,” Marrero said. “My daughter didn’t feel safe in that school.”

Marrero said her daughter tried to go back in November but was not allowed.

“She has a medical condition. There is a problem with her hip and leg,” she explained. “They wouldn’t let her use a cane; they said it was a weapon.”

The teen was offered a program at Satellite Academy, but since she will turn 21 by the time the course is over, she is ineligible. It was also suggested that she go to Job Corps, but you need a diploma to enroll.

“She is discriminated against because of age and attendance,” Marrero said. “All she wanted to do was respect herself.”

Not so, said Feinberg. “At Dewey, the school allowed her to use her cane,” the spokesperson contended.

“She never was denied entrance,” she told this paper. “The school also helped her look for more appropriate sites for classes and offered her several options.”

Stein and Marrero said that not only have they been in touch with their school’s administration, but they have called 3-1-1 “a bazillion” times to report the bullying and have contacted the district attorney’s office, as well as Aimee Horowitz, District 21’s high school superintendent, network leaders and guidance counselors.

Marrero’s daughter is enrolled in GED courses right now. “But the GED is difficult. Will they get time and half?” Stein said.

“It’s like being persecuted. She’s being treated as if she has leprosy. She feels neglected and it’s affecting her emotionally,” Marrero said.

Even though they are not attending school, Stein’s daughter is in therapy and Marrero’s daughter is still being harassed in the neighborhood, their mothers say.

“She just wants to get a second chance,” Marrero said. “All she wants to do is go inside a school and get her education.”

“They make parents feel inferior,” added Stein. “I still have to answer to the DOE and give quarterly reports. I’m trying to help out my child but no one is helping. I have to purchase an assessment test twice a year. You have to have a licensed teacher to give the test. It’s not my choice that I have to home school my child.”

Marrero added that she is currently out of work. “I have to pay for my GED programs. Where am I getting this money from?” she said. “She feels like garbage. All she wants is to earn an education. It’s not fair to her. It’s not right.”

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