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Special Ed class meets in busy teacher's lounge

November 14, 2011 8:11:12 PM PST
The teacher's lounge is not where you would expect to find special education students taking classes. But that is what happens for special ed classes at IS 231 in Queens.

Undercover video Eyewitness News obtained reveals that every day, three different groups of special ed students try to learn history and science in a make-shift classroom among teachers taking their breaks.

The special ed teacher must compete with constant distractions by colleagues coming in and out to make copies or to heat up their lunch in the microwave or to use the bathroom. The traffic is constant and obviously a distraction to the students who have difficulty focusing under the best conditions.

But that's not all. Adding to the interruptions, the school dean conducts business in an open office in the corner of the room throughout the day and no dividers or walls separate his office from the classroom.

Groups of students will also sometimes wait in the lounge before going to the principal's office nearby, talking and laughing, completely distracting the special ed students from their lessons.

"It's one school, one classroom, but I'll say again from a parent perspective, if I look at those kids, they could be my child, right?" said Zakiyah Ansari, of the Alliance for Quality Education.

IS 231 is a troubled school, among the lowest performing in the entire city; it is therefore being phased out. In the past two years, New York State has cut one billion dollars of funding for education and many think the state and the city's policies are bad news for students all around.

Only a few days ago, the Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch blasted the Mayor Bloomberg for closing troubled schools saying, ''They've closed a lot of the large schools and they've warehoused thousands of kids."

The watchdog group Alliance for Quality Education doesn't think that process is about to end.

"What do we expect? Do we expect that these conditions are gonna change? And who do we hold accountable for it," Ansari asked.

The Principal for IS 231 makes sure that every letter to parents includes the school motto: "Our kids are worth whatever it takes." But one parent who spoke to us off-camera says she feels her child has been cast aside in a make-shift classroom where the chances for learning diminish with each distraction.

The Department of Education declined Eyewitness News' request for an interview. However, they did say that since Eyewitness News' investigation they have taken steps to ensure the class will not be interrupted, including removing the photocopier and limiting teacher access to the bathroom.

But it's a mystery how many other makeshift classrooms are there throughout the school system.

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