A teacher has been accused of throwing a first-grader down the stairs at a Harlem elementary school that has been plagued with problems over the past few years.
Xavier Gomez, a 7-year-old special needs student at P.S. 194 in Harlem, and mother Erica Medina, claim the first-grader was thrown down a flight of stairs by teacher Osman Couey after failing to keep up with his classmates in line. Xavier suffers from ADHD and has learning disabilities; he says the November 20th incident left him with painful bruises and a propensity towards anxiety attacks. "Mr. Couey grabbed my ear and pulled me down the stairs," he told the Daily News earlier this week. “I fell down four steps and then I started crying."
On Monday, a spokesperson from the Education Department told us, "There was an investigation into the matter which found that the allegations made were unsubstantiated and inaccurate," adding, "As always, we take these matters very, very seriously." The Daily News reported Couey received a letter in his file regarding this incident. He has been implicated in three incidents allegedly involving corporal punishment and verbal abuse since 2004, receiving merely a disciplinary letter in each case. "There’s no way that man should be teaching in my son’s school,” Medina told the tabloid. “I can’t believe the city has let this go on for so long."
We've reached out the the Education Department for additional comment but have yet to hear back; meanwhile, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the Daily News he will be looking into the matter further. "A substantiated case — and more than one — that’s unacceptable,” he said. “I’m not going to tolerate that type of behavior."
This isn't the first incident P.S. 194 has faced of late: in May, a mother claimed in a lawsuit that her third-grade son was forced to perform oral sex on three older male students in 2012. And in 2009, a third-grade girl was allegedly assaulted by one of the same young students allegedly involved in the 2012 case. Then, parents and teachers blamed former principal Charyn Koppelson for those and other violent incidents, claiming Koppelson "flat-out lied and she would cover up mistakes." The Education Department and the former principal were both the subjects of multi-million dollar lawsuits.
One watchdog site noted it is "a troubled school with a history of violence and poor academic performance," and in 2009 a group of parents advocated to have the school shut down by the city.