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03-11-08, 09:40 AM #1
Preschoolers parents suing the city after school safety officer kicks 4 year olds out of class and handcuffs them for refusing to take a nap
March 10, 2008 -- The parents of two Bronx preschoolers are suing the city, charging that their kids were tossed out of class - and handcuffed by a school-safety officer - for refusing to take a nap.
Lawyer Scott Agulnick said Jaden Diaz and Christopher Brito - both then 4 and students at CS 211, The Bilingual School - told their parents that a substitute teacher took them and another boy to an empty classroom on Nov. 17, 2006, and left them there alone.
Soon, the lawyer said, the school-safety officer entered the room, cuffed the boys' wrists - and further terrified them by telling they that they would never see their parents again.
"I wasn't shot, but my hands were tied," Christopher, now 5, recalled, according to his mother, Vasso Brito, a 34- year-old office worker - who says the little guy is now scared of police officers.
Brito, who's trying to transfer Christopher to another public school, said she was "shocked" to learn of what she considers to have been an absolute abuse of authority.
"Right now, I feel [there are] monsters in school," she said. "I'm still perturbed. As I'm talking to you, I'm shaking."
Jaden, now 6, remembers that a man who was dressed like a cop walked in, sat at a big desk - "like the one the judge is on" - and threatened them.
"He was police," Jaden said. "He said, 'You know what happens when you don't go to sleep in there? . . . 'When you go to jail, you're not going to have no fun, no TV, no toys.' "
Jaden - who asked his dad to move far enough away from him so as not to be able to hear his account of what happened-whispered to a reporter that he got a "little scared" when he saw the handcuffs attached to the safety officer's "costume."
He insisted that he was not handcuffed - though his mom, Sasha Diaz, said he confided in her that he was.
"It took me about a day to get it out of him. He didn't want to tell me . . . I don't know if he thought it was his fault," said Diaz, 27, an assistant teacher who now finds herself suddenly struggling to pay for her only child to attend Catholic school.
The families are seeking unspecified damages, said Agulnick, adding: "Failure to comply with nap time is hardly an offense that warrants being handcuffed, or threatened, for that matter. Nothing would've warranted that."
The city Department of Education and the NYPD, which oversees school-safety officers, did not return requests for comment.
The boys' claims recall two other recent cases. In one, a mentally challenged 10-year-old Brooklyn girl said a school-safety officer handcuffed her outside school. In the other, a 5-year-old Queens boy said a school-safety officer snapped the cuffs on him inside his school.
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