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Four New Haven school employees placed on leave following disciplinary incident with student

NEW HAVEN - The Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School  in New Haven has been under the microscope this week.

The school's principal announced she was leaving for another job. And, four other employees, including the vice principal, were placed on administrative leave as an internal investigation probes how they dealt with a student in a disciplinary situation.

"When the allegation came through, the school did what was prudent," said David Cicarella, President of the New Haven Federation of Teachers.

Among the four placed on leave was a kindergarten teacher Cicarella's union represents. "The teacher was questioned that day or the very next day and was cleared immediately," Cicarella said.

She was cleared because she was not even in the classroom at the time of the incident, involving one of her students allegedly being physically pulled from the classroom.

"Clearly, the parent, understandably, had a concern," Cicarella said. "If it was my child, I would feel the same way. I would definitely want it investigated."

The investigation, which includes the Department of Children and Families, will include statements from students, who were in the classroom at the time.

"No one knows exactly what transpired. All we know is what someone alleged to have happened," Cicarella said. "DCF has, by state law, 45 days to complete their investigation."

"What I want people to know is that we take very seriously the safety of our young people," said Mayor Toni N. Harp (D-New Haven), who is also a member of the New Haven Board of Education.

"We’re working very hard to make sure that parents and the students have every confidence in our ability to educate their children," Harp added.

The Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools, Dr. Carol D. Birks, issued a written statement that read, in part, "The New Haven Public Schools works closely with the Department of Children and Families  to assure that our staff members follow all local, state and national laws, policies, and standards to safeguard students."

In his 12 years as the head of the New Haven teachers union, Cicarella says DCF has investigated nearly 400 incidents in New Haven schools, with 300 of those coming in the last five years.

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