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DOE: Park Slope Principal Didn't Recruit Communists, But Did Commit Other Offenses

A Park Slope Collegiate student at a rally in support of Bloomberg this spring.
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A Park Slope Collegiate student at a rally in support of Bloomberg this spring. Emma Whiford / Gothamist

Park Slope Collegiate Principal Jill Bloomberg made headlines this spring when the city opened an investigation into allegations that she was recruiting students into the Progressive Labor Party on school property. Soon after, her supporters rallied outside DOE headquarters with signs that read "Integrate, don't red bait!"

This week, the DOE confirmed that the recruitment allegations have been dismissed, but Bloomberg will be disciplined on other apparently unrelated counts.

"Based on the findings of a thorough investigation conducted by the Office of Special Investigations, several of the allegation against Ms. Bloomberg were substantiated and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken," said DOE spokesman Michael Aciman.

Bloomberg's attorneys consider the decision an act of retaliation against the popular principal, who is a vocal critic of school segregation.

Park Slope Collegiate is majority black and Latino, and since 2010 has shared a building with Millennium Brooklyn High School, which is about one-third white. School investigators first approached Bloomberg in March, soon after she criticized the DOE for offering a more robust sports program to Millennium. In the past, she's protested the installation of metal detectors in her school and organized assemblies about police brutality. "I do think the recent sports demands really kind of kicked the hornets nest," Bloomberg told Gothamist in June.

According to the DOE, the investigation was not related to Bloomberg's politics or activism. The agency sent a memorandum to Bloomberg's lawyers this spring, stating that she and two other teachers were under investigation for political recruitment. It also alleged that Bloomberg's husband filmed a documentary for the left-leaning Len Ragizin Foundation that featured students and staff "without their authorization," and that Bloomberg charged entry to a screening of the film.

The city said this week that the filming allegation has been substantiated. (According to Bloomberg's attorneys, "she advised the filmmaker of [the] obligation to have releases.")

The DOE says it will also punish Bloomberg for failing to authorize a substitute teacher, and offering a history class to fill a government course credit without DOE approval. Additional complaints have been sent to the Conflicts of Interest Board for investigation, according to DOE.

Maria Chickedantz, one of Bloomberg's lawyers, called the substantiated complaints "random."

"We're definitely still pursuing [a lawsuit] because we view it as proof that this was motivated by the DOE's attempt to silence her from speaking out about race discrimination," Chickendantz added.

Bloomberg herself did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"While finding the allegations of Communist organizing to be patently false, they are still threatening disciplinary action based on minor bureaucratic complaints from the same discredited source," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Any disciplinary action is simple retaliation for our defense of our students, their civil rights and our advocacy for integration."

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