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Students evacuated as teacher barricades himself in building

Students were evacuated from a South Bronx school that houses three middle schools after a teacher barricaded himself inside this morning, reportedly claiming to have a bomb. The New York Times reported that police said there does not appear to be a bomb in the building. The teacher told police that he is protesting the mistreatment of teachers, the New York Post is reporting on its web site.

The teacher is an employee at M.S. 328 in the Bronx, which shares a building with two other middle schools: J.H.S. 145 and M.S. 325. A source with knowledge of the situation tells me that the teacher is his school’s union chapter leader, an elected post for a person that teachers choose to represent them in hiring, firing, and work-environment disputes. A Department of Education spokeswoman, Melody Meyer, said the department has no comment and referred questions to the NYPD.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the teacher told police he was going on a hunger strike after being assigned to the rubber room, the holding center for teachers accused of infractions from corporal punishment to incompetence. Here’s the Times’ report:

With the teacher isolated inside the classroom, negotiators talked with him, said Mr. Browne. During these talks, he admitted that he had planted no bomb, but said he had undertaken a hunger strike over the way a disciplinary case against him had been handled and that he wanted to see the principal, ousted, said Mr. Browne. He slipped a note to negotiators and said he was on a hunger strike because of some disciplinary case, said Mr. Browne. An official with knowledge of the case said that the teacher was a union chapter chairman at the school and had received a letter Thursday informing him that that he was being reassigned to a so-called rubber room — a term for classrooms where teachers removed from teaching duties are assigned — as discipline for imposing corporal punishment on a student.

I think we’ll hold off running to the scene and rely on the sure-to-be-exhaustive work of the Times, Post, and Daily News. Let us know if you’re a teacher or parent at the school or have any background on why the teacher would want to protest mistreatment.

UPDATE 12:15 P.M.: According to several news sources, the teacher, who has been identified as Francisco Garabitos, has been taken into custody by police. Students and teachers are returning to the building.