By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Dozens of Murry Bergtraum High School students ditched school Monday rather than submit to new metal detectors.
The NYPD installed the temporary detectors after students rioted last Thursday when Principal Andrea Lewis revoked their bathroom privileges in response to a fight.
Students who approached the Pearl Street school Monday morning were greeted by a line of NYPD School Safety officers, who demanded that they put their belts, electronics and any metal objects into their bags, which would be scanned and possibly searched.
Instead, many students turned around and headed back to the subway.
"It’s very annoying," said Omaira Vega, 15, from Brooklyn.
"What is this, kindergarten?" added Vega’s friend Levar Patterson, 15, from Queens.
Both students said they didn’t want to risk their cell phones getting confiscated, since Lewis had threatened that they wouldn’t get them back until June. The students said they felt they had no choice but to skip school.
Patterson said it was unfair for all of the school’s 2,445 students to be punished, when only a couple hundred of them participated in Thursday’s riot.
Several students who spoke to DNAinfo Monday morning said they had never seen guns or knives in the school, and they didn’t think metal detectors were necessary.
A Department of Education spokeswoman said the detectors were part of a mobile unit that does unannounced inspections at schools and would not be there permanently.
Tension has been building for months between the students and Lewis, who took over the struggling high school this fall and implemented stricter policies.
On Saturday, John Elfrank-Dana, the United Federation of Teachers chapter leader at the school, wrote a letter to fellow faculty members outlining his frustrations with Lewis.
Elfrank-Dana wrote that students rioted because "they know they are getting junk education." He criticized the school’s large class sizes and Lewis’s harsh disciplinary tactics for students and teachers alike.
Elfrank-Dana said teachers have stopped reporting discipline problems because the administration often punishes the teachers, rather than the difficult students.
"You ask for help with discipline and it will be held against you," he wrote.
Lewis did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Department of Education spokeswoman said she could not comment on the letter because the DOE had not seen it.
Outside the school Monday morning, police officers told a reporter not to take pictures or speak to students within 1,000 feet of the entrance.
Many Murry Bergtraum students who were hanging out near the Chambers Street subway Monday morning predicted more riots unless school polices change.
"We did what we had to do," a sophomore from Brooklyn said.
He and a group of about a dozen students added, though, that they wouldn’t return to the school while metal detectors were in place.
What would happen if the detectors stayed in place the rest of the school year?
"Then I guess no school for us," he said.