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No permission slips for deadly field trip, investigators find

Nicole Suriel and her classmates did not have permission slips for the field trip that ended in the 12-year-old student’s death, according to a report released today by the school system’s investigator.

UPDATE: Responding to the report’s findings, the city is firing Erin Bailey, the first-year teacher who led the field trip. It will also seek to put the school’s principal, Jose Maldonado-Rivera, on a two-year probation. The school’s assistant principal, Andrew Stillman, is being demoted to a tenured teacher position.

Suriel’s drowning is also prompting the city to review and possibly change its regulations on field trips, said Department of Education spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

Investigators compiled a detailed narrative of the June 22 field trip to an unpatrolled Long Island beach taken by Suriel’s sixth grade class at the Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering. They interviewed the school’s principal, as well as the assistant principal, local government and law enforcement officials, eight students on the trip and a college intern who chaperoned. The full report is below.

Parents had signed “universal” permission slips for short field trips nearby the school and for swimming in the school’s pool, and the school’s assistant principal emailed parents about the trip to the beach the day before.

But there was no specific permission form given for the trip to Long Island, investigators found. And the teacher in charge of the trip allowed students to swim in spite of signs warning that the beach was closed and no lifeguards were on duty. The school’s assistant principal, who had planned the trip and originally intended to go, stayed behind at the school to spend $26,000 in funds that would expire if not used by the end of the term four days later.

The commissioner referred his findings to Chancellor Joel Klein and to Nassau County’s district attorney, but does not recommend any specific action. I’ll update the post when I have a response from the Department of Education.

The report is notable for its speed in delivery. Other SCI reports are sometimes the results of several years of investigation.

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