A public school principal in Fort Greene was arrested at P.S. 20 yesterday for allegedly assaulting a teacher during a meeting to discuss allegations of corporal punishment against a special ed teacher. Principal Sean Keaton has been the target of intense criticism from parents lately—many of them newer, more affluent arrivals to Fort Greene, who see him as authoritarian and resistant to parental involvement. According to The Local, "the community conversation about him often seemed to break down along class lines... with working-class parents defending him. There was often a racial component to the debate as well (Mr. Keaton is black)."
The critics had gotten under Keaton's skin in recent weeks, and last month the Local posted an open letter from Keaton explaining, "my feelings have been bruised and I have been offended and threatened by many people in my school community but I never complain." Also bruised is Robert Segarra (pictured), a teacher and union representative at P.S. 20. He attended yesterday's meeting to represent the female special ed teacher, and he says Keaton went berserk after he demanded to know what witnesses had said about the teacher:
I said, “Mr. Keaton, you’re on top of me.” He said, “That’s right, I’m on top of you.” I said, “You’re in my face.” He said, “That’s right, I’m in your face,” and with every word, he poked me in the face, in the bridge of my nose. “Now you’re touching me,” I said. Then he swung and punched me. I said, “Now you’re hitting me.”
He’s got his knee on top of one of my legs and he’s punching me. He’s holding me down in the chair and he’s whaling on me. I’m getting punched and I’m still in the chair. Now after about 5 of these shots, I’m on the floor. And he’s kicking me. He’s kicking me over and over and over again.
But as he’s kicking me I yell out, “I’m not hitting him! I’m not hitting him! I’m not hitting him!” I’m just lying on the floor trying to cover myself up. Every time I said, “I’m not hitting him,” I got another kick or another punch or another scrape or another strike. I got hit at least 20 times. I finally struggle, and now I’m standing.
911 was called, and police came to take statements and arrest Keaton, who was charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and released. (He's been reassigned to an administrative job away from the school pending the outcome of the investigation.) According to a statement from the Teachers Union, Segerra was treated for cuts and bruises at North Shore Hospital, and he tells the Local, "The police actually took a picture of the back of my head next to his shoe. They said, ‘Look, the treadmark matches.'"