DOWNTOWN — Parents from the elite Shuang Wen School, outraged by the recent firing of their principal, are threatening to remove their children from the high-achieving Lower East Side school over the longtime leader's ouster.
The Department of Education reassigned principal Ling Ling Chou to administrative duties last week pending the outcome of a number of ongoing investigations at the popular Cherry Street school.
The move came only days after parents and school advocates filed a federal lawsuit against the DOE over claims of discrimination and "secretive and abusive" probes of the dual-language elementary school.
"A lot of parents believe in the principal, and I think you might see a mass exodus of students from the school," said Robert Parker, an attorney representing the parents.
Advocates gathered outside Manhattan Federal Court Thursday for a hearing on the lawsuit, which was adjourned until July 20 because a member of the defense counsel could not attend, Parker said.
"The parents are united in this — they will not stop," said Patti Lee, of Brooklyn, who has two children at the school and took the day off work to join the demonstration. "I can't believe this is happening in America."
Lee explained that she pulled both her children out of gifted programs to send them to Shuang Wen, and that some parents even bought homes near the school in order to enroll them there.
Chou spent 12 years as principal of Shuang Wen before her dismissal, and many parents thought of her as a matriarchal figure who shepherded students from preschool into young adulthood.
"You've basically taken the mother of the school out," said Angel Figueroa, of Inwood, who attended Thursday's rally. "If she's not around, there's no reason for me to stay around."
The DOE would not comment on Chou's reassignment nor the details of the investigation, citing the fact that the probe is still ongoing.
Parents are also trying to appeal to local City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, but were unable to meet with her after gathering in front of her downtown offices Thursday.
A Chin aide who addressed the parents would not comment on the situation, but said the councilwoman has spoken with the DOE and will meet with parents soon.
Lee said that parents would be more understanding if the DOE found evidence of wrongdoing on Chou's behalf, but noted that many feel "helpless" given the lack of information regarding her dismissal.
He added that some parents are considering protesting the decision by refusing to let their kids attend the school for summer classes and possibly at the beginning of next school year.
"It would devastate me if I had to pull my child out," said Christine Poon, who has two children at the school and attended Thursday's rally. "We're all thinking about it."