Chaos reigned at the Lehman Educational Campus during a week-long spree of fights and false fire alarms.
Merchants, represented by the Westchester Square Business Improvement District, and Councilman James Vacca met with four of six principals from the high school campus in Vacca’s office on Thursday, December 3 to discuss the week’s mayhem.
The alarms caused an immediate dismissal that sent thousands of students into the street from Monday, November 30 to December 3.
Most never returned to school, and those who did faced hour long waits at metal detectors, which they have to pass through to reenter the school, according to sources.
A police source stated that the fire alarms had been pulled twice in the preceding week also.
“We have kids pulling fire alarms and it has become contagious,” said the councilman, adding that based on his conversations with police, he believes that students having access to cell phones, per recent city Department of Education policy, may be contributing to the coordination of false alarms and the planning of fights outside the school.
“The merchants have told me that this is really an untenable situation,” added Vacca.
Once in the streets, several students engaged in brawls, which this school year have become more common in the Square, said WSBID officials, with several businesses having to shut their doors at various times.
“The students are overtaking the streets, blocking traffic, fighting and terrorizing pedestrians,” read a BID statement. “On Thursday (December 3), a student was arrested outside the school with a firearm.”
According to the WSBID, several businesses have already indicated that if this continues they will have to close their doors.
The BID is calling on its elected officials to step up and take a leadership role in calming the violence and disorder at the school and in the community.
“As a business association we demand the protection we deserve and a coordinated solution from various city agencies responsible for their part in these incidents,” read the WSBID statement. “We will not accept the finger pointing that has been the response to this issue.”
Vacca believes that DOE policy has shifted away towards suspensions for disruptive students towards more of an emphasis on counseling and intervention.
He believes this is the wrong policy in these cases, and is looking for suspension and arrests for out of control young people, he said.
The councilman believes that one of the school’s many principals needs to be appointed the lead principal in order to have someone in the building who can make split second decisions.
Currently, no such principal is designated, he said.
Councilman Vacca said he was especially disturbed by a video recently removed from Youtube that showed girls, presumably Lehman campus students, fighting near 120 Westchester Square and “beating each other to a pulp.”
“It was disgraceful, he said. “This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated.”
The councilman, WSBID and Community Board 10 representatives and DOE officials had a second meeting on Tuesday, December 8.
According to Kenneth Kearns, CB 10 district manager, progress is being made as of press time.
A statement from the DOE said that additional resources are being allocated to the Lehman campus.
“The campus principals are working closely with FDNY and NYPD, and we are placing additional support at the campus,” stated a DOE spokesman.