DOE Ordered Headphones Letter After Crash Despite Protests, Union Says
MASPETH — The principal of a Queens school where five students were hit by a car was ordered to send a letter warning about walking while wearing headphones despite his protests that it would be insensitive, his union said.
Camillo Turriciano, the principal of I.S 73 in Maspeth, reached out to the Department of Education asking for advice on how to address the school after the horrific crash Thursday, according to Chiara Colletti, the chief spokeswoman for the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.
He was told by the legal department to send the letter about the headphones — even though there was no evidence the hurt students had been listening to music.
"He questioned the sensitivity of the letter more than once, but the legal department said it was the letter he should send," Colletti said.
The letter, which was sent home to parents hours after the accident at 71st Street and Grand Avenue, said children "must be encouraged to be aware of their surroundings when riding the bus or train and walking to and from the school building."
Students shouldn't use headphones, CD players and iPods while commuting, the note said, because it prevents children from hearing what's going on in their surrounding environment and can be a threat to safety.
The students who were hit did not appear to be wearing headphones at the time of the horrific crash, which was captured on a store's surveillance video.
They were hurt when the driver of a Honda Pilot SUV jumped the curb and drove into them as they walked in front of a deli, according to store surveillance video. Police sources said the driver, 40, was parking and accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.
He remained at the scene and is not expected to be charged.
"[The principal] is terribly pained for those kids, and terribly pained if the letter caused offense," Colletti said.
"This is not the letter he would have sent."
A spokeswoman for the DOE said the letter was just a "general reminder" about walking safely to and from school.
"The principal sent home a letter to parents about safety precautions now that school has started," spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.
In an email Sunday, a spokeswoman for the DOE said that "the initial information that the DOE received suggested that headphones could have been involved in the accident. The letter's intention was to suggest safety measures that could be communicated to students."