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One teacher's frustration with city school bureaucracy

A special education teacher at Buffalo's Discovery School 67 says she saw her male classroom aide fondling a 5-year-old autistic boy in the school lavatory last November.

   The teacher, Charlene Harris, said she was deeply disappointed when a district official ruled her charges unfounded, and the aide was returned to the same classroom where she teaches and the alleged victim is a student.

   On Monday, Harris said her efforts had gone all the way to the top. She sent a certified letter to Superintendent James A. Williams and followed it up with a phone call, but said that made no difference.

   Her frustration was magnified when Williams fired a top aide last week for mishandling the investigation, and said things would have been handled properly if he had known about the  allegations.

   Williams paints a different picture.

   The superintendent said through a spokesman that he receives hundreds … even thousands … of letters each week, and can't be expected to personally read and follow up on all of them. Instead, he said, his office staff refers them to appropriate department heads for disposition.

   That's what happened here, Williams said. The letter from Harris was passed along and mishandled by a department head. Williams said he does not remember reading the letter or having any knowledge of the allegations until months later.

   "Any suggestion that the superintendent should have personally handled this matter to a
conclusion is ridiculous," his spokesman said.

    - Peter Simon

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