The story about the Bronx teacher, Francisco Garabitos, who barricaded himself in a classroom and caused three schools to be evacuated this morning before being taken into police custody, keeps getting stranger. Earlier today, United Federation of Teachers President Weingarten apparently placed some of the blame for the incident on Garabitos’s principal, Dorald Bastian. She later distanced herself from those comments after a disturbing Web site operated by Garabitos came to light.
I didn’t make the press conference that Weingarten held as soon as she returned this afternoon from Washington, D.C., but judging from the statements I’ve just received from the principals union and the city Department of Education, she must have had some harsh words about Bastian.
Here’s what Chiara Coletti, the principals union communications chair, had to say:
There’s only one issue in the case of MS 328 and Francisco Garabitos. Mr. Garabitos — a teacher and a UFT Chapter Chair — threatened to bomb a school and blow up the 1200 children inside of it. He barricaded himself within a school room, pretending to wait for the bomb to go off. This is a serious criminal act. Dorald Bastian, the Principal [of] MS 328, did everything he could do to protect the school today, and he and the NYPD should be thanked for their work. It’s astonishing that the President of the UFT is now finding fault with the Principal, when one of her chapter chairs has committed a hideous crime directed against children.
And from David Cantor, the DOE’s chief spokesman:
There are so many reasons why this teacher does not belong in a school, much less in front of children. For the UFT to suggest in any way that somehow the principal was at fault is beyond belief. The principal was doing his job by trying in every way possible to remove someone who shouldn’t have been there.
Since the 3 p.m. press conference, Weingarten learned that Garabitos maintained a Web site, Detower.com, that contains bizarre manifestos about student discipline and genocide, among other topics. (A GothamSchools reader posted a link to the site in the comments section of this morning’s article at 12:55 p.m.) Here’s a statement that I just received from Weingarten:
As I said earlier today in our press conference concerning the teacher who barricaded himself inside the New Millennium Business Academy in the Bronx, there is no priority more important than the safety of New York City public school children and staff, and we at the United Federation of Teachers will move Heaven and earth to keep them safe. We are grateful that the situation was resolved peacefully, and we thank the police and the city for working closely with us to defuse what was a potentially dangerous situation. Prior to the press conference, we had not known about the Web site allegedly operated by the teacher. The content on the site is entirely inappropriate for children or educators. Teachers must remember there is no zone of privacy when someone publishes in this manner and attaches one’s name to it.
I did hear from a teacher from one of the other schools in the building who reported hearing complaints about Bastian for some time from MS 328 teachers. The teacher also provided a firsthand account of conditions in the school:
The climate down there is fairly out of control — this is one thing I can attest to. I have had experiences with children from that school coming up onto our floor (the three schools are pretty clearly divided by floor) and running in and out of our classrooms. One day I chased a group of girls down to their school’s floor. They ran past two teachers/staff members AND the principal himself. No one said anything, so I went back upstairs, figuring that if these kids could run right past him without him saying anything, that he wouldn’t do anything about it. A lot of teachers are very unhappy.
Doubtless more information will come to light about Garabitos, Bastian, and conditions at the Bronx building where the incident took place. We’ll keep you posted as it does.