Assemblymember Colton Statement on Lafayette High School

December 22, 2004
Lafayette-Gate

Colton: "The Era of DOE Cover-Ups Is Over"

Calls for the State Department of Education Commissioner Richard Mills to step in and thoroughly investigate yesterday’s horrific incident involving a student and dean falling down an elevator shaft in Brooklyn’s troubled Lafayette High School

The following is a statement released by Assemblymember William Colton (D-Bensonhurst):

Yesterday’s horrific incident, yet again, underscores the need for drastic action to be taken to turnaround troubled Lafayette High School. The Department of Education has continued to publicly speak of Lafayette’s progress. Meanwhile, each week, we learn of another child arrested or hospitalized. A senior assistant to the chancellor, Rose DePinto, went as far as to say: "The school is as quiet as a mouse." I would suggest Department of Education officials ask student Leron Summers, the child that fell, if he heard a mouse squeaking as he was laying unconscious down the elevator shaft.

Immediately following the incident, school and other public officials downplayed the incident by stating that the dean and child suffered only minor injuries. However, as the DOE was saying the injuries sustained were minor, teen Leron Summers was lying in severe pain and having a hard time breathing in a Lutheran Medical Center bed last night suffering from a punctured lung. After receiving feedback from the Summers family, different stories have emerged as to what exactly happened yesterday morning in Lafayette’s basement cafeteria. According to the Summers family, nobody pushed Leron and the dean down the elevator shaft, but rather the dean grabbed hold of Leron to back away from the brawl and fell back onto the elevator door, which gave way. Leron recalled seeing the elevator moving down, as they looked up helplessly from down at the bottom of the elevator shaft. In addition, the Summers family claims that an anonymous person from Lafayette called and said Leron fell down an elevator shaft, but never informed them that he was in the hospital. It was only after Lutheran Medical Center called to inform his mom and said that her son was hospitalized that Ms. Summers knew what was going on.

As for the dean, Mike Myers, witnesses claimed that he had a very bad injury to his leg and Department of Education officials rushed to Lutheran Medical Center in the afternoon to retrieve him. Witnesses saw the dean limping out of the hospital at the request of DOE officials. Leron Summers claims that when he fell down the shaft he landed between two metal springs, but the dean’s leg got cut by one of the springs. To Leron, the dean’s screams did not seem to be the result of only a minor injury. Adding to that, as the two were lying down, Leron recalled seeing the door hang by one screw about to collapse on top of them potentially causing more serious injuries.

The questions I have are: How did the elevator doors get open? (According to Leron, nobody pushed them down. The dean’s back tapped the elevator door as they were walking backward and gave way.) When was the last inspection of that elevator door and what was the result of that inspection? Why did the school not tell Leron’s mother that her son was in the hospital? Why did DOE officials rush to retrieve the dean out of the hospital?

These are questions that can only be answered truthfully by a higher authority than the City Department of Education. Their spin-control tactics should not and will not get in the way of this investigation. They spend more time trying to figure out ways to squirm out of incidents rather than getting to the root of the problem and preventing incidents from happening again. I am calling upon State Education Department Commissioner to immediately step in and conduct a full and thorough investigation of yesterday’s incident. The Department of Education has proved to be inept and incapable of investigating its own schools. For them to continue to justify the unjustifiable is outrageous and will not be tolerated. For the sake of the students and staff in that school, as well as the community, I will not be silent. I, as a state lawmaker, will do everything in my power to bring this matter directly to the top.