NEW YORK—Behind closed doors, staff members at Opportunity Charter School (OCS) in Harlem allegedly punched, dragged, and beat up special education children, according to an investigative report published on Wednesday.
In the 2007–2008 school year, administrators of the school, which is located on West 113th Street, “failed to adequately supervise staff and follow school policy,” according to the Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon's report.
Condon's office began investigating the school in 2008 after receiving an anonymous complaint about the alleged abuse, and eventually interviewed close to 30 people.
Also, staff “failed to document interventions as they were required to do and engaged in confrontations with students,” the report added.
A 14-year-old male student was punched in the stomach and staff dragged him on the ground, remaining on top of the student, according to the report. Another student witnessed a dean wrestle another young male student down to the ground in a headlock as a form of discipline.
A 15-year-old female student was dragged out of a classroom by her hair and the report says many of the incidents were “excluded or minimized” in an official report produced by the school in response to the commissioner's probe.
OCS started in 2004, having been authorized by the New York State Board of Regents and has 420 sixth through twelfth grade students enrolled. A significant number of students at the school have special needs and are consistently low-performing.
Other than physical abuse, the report found that disciplinary staff verbally assaulted students.
David Nachtweih, a spokesperson with the school, told the New York Times that the school didn't properly report instances of abuse in some cases and established new oversight policies to address the issue.
He added that students at the school in the past year showed marked improvement in reading comprehension.