Until recently, the school was a fun place for little Ethan Gomez to go during the day. But after the school’s principal and his teacher interrogated him about potential drug abuse in his home, the 6-year-old no longer feels safe in the Bronx, New York school.
Public School 209 in the Bronx used to be an exciting place for little Ethan. He loved to learn and to be with his friends.
But during an afterschool program, the little boy was grilled about whether people at his home were abusing drugs in front of him. The intimidation overwhelmed the first grader. And now Ethan’s mother and his aunt are outraged. The school crossed a line grilling Ethan twice over the suspected drug abuse.
The boy’s mother, Ariel Gomez, claims there is “absolutely not” any drug use in her home. She couldn’t believe that the school principal and a teacher terrified her son to the point that he is scared to go to school now. She reported the out-of-line behavior to the Department of Education. They are not investigating her claim.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of students and staff,” a department spokeswoman said. “We will ensure appropriate follow-up action is taken.”
Ariel and Ethan’s aunt spoke to the New York Daily News about the school’s behavior toward the first grader. Ariel said the first inquiry into drug abuse at home happened a few weeks ago.
“I went to pick Ethan up from school,” said aunt Sarae Gomez, 38. “And he told me [the teacher] asked if there were drugs being used around him or in front of him, and he said no.”
When Ethan said that no one at home was using drugs, the teacher refused to believe him. Instead of letting the boy go, the teacher started sniffing Ethan’s clothes. The teacher did this in front of the other students, so the next day other students started making fun of Ethan and began sniffing his clothes just like the role model had done.
Ariel, who is 26, took her son’s story with a “grain of salt” because he is young. But when she heard the details, she became concerned. No teacher should do that to a little boy in front of other students.
When Ethan’s asthma flared up a week later, he stayed home from school. The school called and spoke to Ethan’s grandfather who confirmed the illness.
Nevertheless, the school sent a truancy officer to Ethan’s home after he missed three days.
That day, Ariel and Ethan’s aunt went to meet with a parent coordinator at the school. They were not allowed to schedule an appointment with the principal. But an assistant principal promised to address the mother’s concerns.
The next day when Ariel picked little Ethan up from school, he told her something that made her sick.
“He tells me the principal asked him if anyone was using drugs in the house, and asked him about the questions the other teacher asked him,” she said. “He said he was scared, uncomfortable. His heart was racing.”
His aunt is equally upset: “To question him again about drug abuse is unbelievable. Instead of healing the situation, they’re bringing chaos to our family. They’re not supposed to keep a constant fear in the child.”
Ethan is now terrified of school.
“He’s afraid he’s going to get in trouble, and someone will take him away from me,” his mother said.