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What happened to Karen Dussack should send shivers down the spines of parents with children in the city public school system. Despite her son being an honor student at the Bronx High School of Science and going to college next year on a full scholarship, Dussack was investigated last month for "educational neglect."
The Bayside mother said two city Administration for Children's Services caseworkers showed up unannounced at and demanded to inspect her home and interview her and her two children. They checked her smoke detectors and looked in the pantry and her refrigerator.
Why did this happen? The caseworkers responded to a report filed by her son's school. Despite his academic accomplishments, he was in danger of failing gym. Dussack was asked to come to the school to speak with her son's counselors. She missed the appointment because her daughter had been injured and had a chiropractor appointment.
Dussack refused to reschedule the meeting because her son was already doing better in gym. The next day, ACS showed up.
We are tempted to take a shot at ACS, but blame for the invasion of Dussack's home belongs with the Bronx school's administration. When ACS gets a report of suspected abuse or neglect, they have to respond.
But there was no reason for the guidance counselor to call ACS. Is it possible a high school counselor would not understand how serious it is when a report is made to ACS, how devastating it is to have caseworkers show up at your door?
To make things worse, when called by our reporter, the principal defended the counselor. "We felt that we could do everything we could and needed the parents' help. We were reaching out to that and were not getting a positive response," said Principal Valerie Reidy.
She could have said that calling ACS was an overreaction or that there is more to this story that she cannot discuss. But to defend making the ACS report based on the facts we presented is moronic and calls into question her ability to run this school.
Wasting the agency's time like this is inexcusable. ACS is overwhelmed. In the past year, the city has witnessed the tragedies that can occur when ACS does not respond quickly.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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