Teacher Throws first-grader down stairs at Harlem school

December 1, 2013

abuse1n-5-webA teacher allegedly tossed a first-grader with special needs down a flight of stairs at a Harlem elementary school that’s notorious for violence and abuse.

Xavier Gomez, 7, and his mother, Erica Medina, say the boy was bruised and in pain for several days. Even worse, he has become terrified of the school and suffers from anxiety attacks before class each day.

The explosive claims stem from an incident on Nov. 20 at Public School 194. It was the middle of the day and Xavier was falling behind in line as a group of students moved from one classroom to another, according to the boy and his mother. Teacher Osman Couey pulled Xavier down the flight of stairs by his ear and then threw the student to the landing, the mother and son claim.

“Mr. Couey grabbed my ear and pulled me down the stairs,” said Xavier, who is diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and has learning disabilities. “I fell down four steps and then I started crying.”

Medina struggled with the decision to send her son back to PS 194.

“He fears going to school because it’s not safe,” said Medina, 26, of Harlem. “He cries every morning and begs not to go. It’s breaking my heart.”

Officials disputed elements of Medina and Xavier’s story, but PS 194, which enrolls 220 city kids, has a long history of campus violence and academic failure — problems that sometimes went unreported for years.

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School officials investigated the accusations against Couey, but they did not interview his mother because she didn’t witness the alleged assault. Officials also declined to interview Xavier, the boy and his mother said.

Despite its limited scope, the investigation found that Couey, who earns $86,590 a year and has taught in city schools since 1999, exercised poor judgment in his handling of the incident.

Education Department officials refused to share the findings of their investigation but said they found that Couey did not drag the boy down the stairs by his ear — although Couey did receive a letter to his file over the incident.

“There was an investigation into the matter which found that the allegations made were unsubstantiated and inaccurate,” said agency spokesman David Pena. “As always, we take these matters very, very seriously.”

Xavier’s mother called the city’s probe a farce since investigators failed to interview her and the boy. She said cell-phone photos she took of bruises on Xavier’s body are proof that Couey harmed her son.

PS 194 has been on the state’s list of “persistently dangerous” schools since 2011 and less than 1% of students there passed state math and reading exams in 2013.

The Daily News was first to report in May the sexual assault of a third-grade boy by three classmates in a bathroom at the school in 2012. The allegations were detailed in a lawsuit by the victim’s parents. The front-page headline in The News read: School of Horror.

One of those assailants in that case sexually assaulted a younger girl at the school in 2009, according to a separate lawsuit.

The school grabbed headlines again in November after a student stabbed a first-grade girl in the arm with a pencil, sending her to the hospital.

“That school is out of control and the city isn’t doing anything to fix it,” Medina said. “No child is safe in that place. That school needs a lot of help.”

Couey did not return multiple calls for comment.

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