Lawsuit: NYC Teacher Forced Straight Boy to Claim He Was Gay
A New York City teacher is cited in two lawsuits against a New York charter school--in one case, for allegedly forcing a 9-year-old male student to tell a girl he liked that he was gay, even though the boy was straight.
A March 12 New York Post article said that 29-year-old Jared Alessandroni was accused not only of forcing James Pastrana to write a note to the girl telling her that he was gay, but also of twisting the arm of another boy at the school, 8 years of age, because Alessandroni disliked the manner in which the boy walked.
The boys were students at the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts, where Alessandroni worked at the time of the alleged incident with Pastrana a year ago. The suit alleges that Alessandroni threatened to "out" Pastrana to his classmates if he did not write a note to the girl he liked to tell her that he was gay--even though Pastrana was not gay. The boy, now 10, said he was "humiliated" by the incident, telling the media that after he wrote the note, "It started to spread around the whole class and then everyone wanted to call me gay."
The arm-twisting, which some news sources said had also targeted Pastrana but which other stories said involved a second boy, allegedly took place a year before that. Alessandroni left his position at the school and says that both matters were "thoroughly investigated," and that "I was cleared on every count." Added Alessandroni, "I just hope that [the civil suit] doesn’t further upset or hurt James."
Also named in the suit was Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, who was the chairman of the school at the time, and who has also since resigned. Arroyo now faces criminal charges in an unrelated matter: he is charged with embezzling from a nonprofit housing organization, the New York Daily News reported March 12.
"The teacher’s conduct was reprehensible and utterly inappropriate for a class of high school seniors, let alone second- and third-graders," attorney Patrick Mullaney, who represents Pastrana’s family, told the press. "But to make matters worse, the conduct was well-known and condoned by the school staff and administration."
"There were a lot of sexually inappropriate comments directed toward my son," Mrs. Pastrana said.
Principal Evelyn Hay was also named in the suit, the article said, but Victory Schools, which runs the charter school, has denied that there is any merit to the suit, which was filed in the Bronx Supreme Court last week.
"In an effort to represent the community’s prestige, the South Bronx Charter School for International Culture and the Arts is a model of excellence providing its youngsters with a constructivist and child-centered curriculum," text at the school’s website reads. "Our community, our parents, and staff are empowered to participate meaningfully in our school to strengthen its potential for success." Adds the text, "Our students receive a well-rounded education that uses the arts to promote excellence in all areas: cognitive, social, emotional, and moral."
A not entirely dissimilar case in 2008 involved Daphne Beasley, the principal of Hollis F. Price Middle College High School in Memphis, who in 2007 asked that a list of students be compiled according to the students’ sexuality, including information on which couples were known to exist among the students, a May 1, 2008 article at Speak UpMemphis! said. The list was reportedly made public, which resulted in two gay students, Andrew and Nicholas, who had recently become involved, being outed to their parents. Beasley explained the list by saying that she was seeking to reduce "public displays of affection" in general on the school’s premises.
"I really feel that my personal privacy was invaded," Nicholas told the media. "I mean, Principal Beasley called my mother and outed me to my mother!" He was excluded from a school trip, he said, and told that the displays of gay public affection he would engage in would be an embarrassment for the school if he were allowed to go. The boys also reported being targeted for harassment after the list was made public.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) decried this as a violation of the students’ privacy, but reader comments at the site were mixed. Some readers felt that schools ought to intervene when students are identified as gay so that the "choice" they have made can be addressed. "Being gay is pathological and for the vast majority a learned behavior," one comment posted by a reader claimed. "Gay people suffer emotional problems at far higher levels than the population as a whole. (Of course we are told this is because of our intolerance--not issues on their part--it is that way for all ’minorities’.) It is evidence of development issues," the posting continued. "The parents needed to be told of the situation."
Wrote another, "Any parent who leaves their child ’alone’ will end up with a troubled child. Maybe gay--the militant gays are trying to legitamize [sic] their lifestyle in grade school now!!!!"
Wrote another of the principal’s actions, "I think she was right, these are still children and as an adult I think she had a right to tell the parents. We cannot leave our kids alone, that is the problem know someone left these kids alone and know they call themselves gay!"
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.