Bronx teacher barricades himself in classroom after making bomb threat

By Calvin Palmer

A teacher at a New York City middle school barricaded himself in a classroom this morning after claiming to have planted a bomb in the school.

Police, hostage negotiators and the bomb squad were called to New Millennium Business Academy Middle School or Middle School 328 after the teacher barricaded himself inside a computer lab and refused to leave.

Francisco Garabitos, 55, a union chapter chairman at the school, is believed to be angry about being reassigned because of a disciplinary proceeding.

The building, near East 165th Street, in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, also houses Junior High School 145, also known as the Arturo Toscanini School, and the Urban Science Academy.

Ann Forte, a spokeswoman for the city’s Education Department, said the building accommodates 1,200 students and it has been evacuated. The students are attending other schools for the day.

With the students and teachers safely outside, officers combed through the building and “found no bomb,” said police spokesman Paul J. Browne.

“He initially claimed he had planted a bomb, but that does not appear to be the case,” Browne added.

During talks with negotiators Garabitos admitted he had not planted a bomb but said that he was going on hunger strike over the way a disciplinary case against him had been handled and wants the school’s principal “ousted”.

It is believed Garabitos received a letter yesterday informing him that that he was being reassigned to a so-called “rubber room” — a term for classrooms where teachers removed from teaching duties are assigned — as discipline for imposing corporal punishment on a student.

Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said that Garabitos had called the union’s central offices on this morning and asked to speak with Randi Weingarten, the president of the union. After he was told she was in Washington, he asked to speak with Sterling Roberson, the head of school security for the union.

Weingarten has been in contact with police hostage negotiators from an airport in Washington and is ready to return to New York if necessary, Davis said. He said she was awaiting instructions from the police.

“We dont know what has happened exactly,” Davis said. “We know that he has a list of demands and is in contact with NYPD. Randi is making herself available in any way the police feel that she is needed.”

Garabitos eventually surrendered to authorities at 11:15 a.m.

Browne said that Garabitos was later taken to Lincoln Hospital for psychological evaluation.

“We anticipate he will be charged with obstruction of governmental administration and trespassing,” Browne said. “Additionally, he is being charged with reckless endangerment due to the fact his actions caused the emergency evacuation of hundreds of school children, which potentially out them at risk.”

[Based on reports by The New York Times and Associated Press.]

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2 responses to “Bronx teacher barricades himself in classroom after making bomb threat

  1. This story made ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

  2. Martin

    The harassment of teachers, by unscrupulous principals like the one who caused this man to lose it, will continue to cause incidents like this one and worse. As a former teacher, I can tell you that the harassment of teachers, by overzealous principals who buy into the ideology that teachers are responsible for why so many kids, particularly those of color, fail to be successful, belies the feel good teaching movies that are seen out there.

    There’s a weird collection of conservative-liberal-fascists, who combine their cliche, spawned from pop culture ideas of the inner city, with anti-union, pro-insensitivity towards workers, old school employee harassment techniques. They blame teachers for issues ranging from student attendance, student depravity (teachers are often blamed for a student assaulting them) and widespread absence of morals, student preparedness: students not having any school supplies, for example, etc.

    Many principals know, deep down inside, that blaming teachers for these issues, many of them out of a teacher’s control, is unfair. However, the prevailing ideology, driven by the uninformed beliefs of people who aren’t, and have never been, teachers, is a surefire ticket to 30,ooo dollar bonuses, on top of six figure salaries, as well as promotions. And, when that’s said and done, these ambitious man-chines move on to the world of educational consultants, spreading venom and hate against one of the most important professions in the world.

    People like this teacher, Francisco Garabitos, are different from people like me, and the many other teachers who have been harassed, in only one respect: he stood up to the depraved manner in which students and administration treated him. In my book, as well as in many of my friends’, he’s a hero: he’s brought attention to our plight. My hope is that he uses this opportunity to tell the truth about what’s going on.

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