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Parents Upset at City for Breaking Up After-School Program's 'Family'

By Emily Frost | May 8, 2015 3:49pm | Updated on May 11, 2015 8:53am
 A student at P.S. 191 on West 61st Street was raped by an after-school instructor, according to officials.
A student at P.S. 191 on West 61st Street was raped by an after-school instructor, according to officials.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — Parents from a local school are fighting to restore a recently closed after-school program that was abruptly axed after a staffer was accused of raping a student.

The PTA and parents at P.S. 191 said they weren't involved in the city's decision to cut the program, Roads to Success, and that they plan to pull their kids from its replacement because they know so little about it.

As of Thursday night, parents said they hadn't learned any details about the new after-school program, run by the West Side YMCA, despite the fact that it's slated to begin Monday. They also hadn't been given a handbook or met the new staffers who will be in charge of their children every day, they explained. 

The Y did not respond to request for comment.

The decision to cut both the middle school and elementary school sections of Roads to Success was made late last month by its funder, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, after the department learned of the rape accusations.

Jamal Baughan, 22, was charged with raping a 14-year-old P.S. 191 student, sexually assaulting another teenage girl and inviting other teens to smoke pot at his apartment, authorities said. He was immediately terminated from Roads to Success and is being held at the Manhattan Detention Complex on $25,000 bail, according to records. 

To fight the closure, parents have obtained more than 620 signatures on an online petition calling for the program to remain, stating it is "invaluable" and the counselors have been "impeccable" over the past seven years at the K-8 school.

"We humbly request you keep our afterschool family together," pleads the petition, which is directed to the Department of Youth and Community Development.

Roads to Success said the P.S. 191 staffers are being reassigned to other sites, and DYCD spokeswoman Dayana Perez noted that no other sites are being canceled.

The reassignment of workers led parents to question the department's logic, asking why their program is being shut down if personnel have been deemed capable enough to work at other schools.

In cases where a school employee rapes or assaults a student, "they remove the teacher — they don’t remove all of the teachers, and they don’t shut down the school," said P.S. 191 parent Melanie Hidalgo, adding that throwing away relationships with mentors who have good track records doesn't make sense.

Perez assured that the new afterschool program would be just as good as the old one.

“Westside YMCA is a high quality organization offering the identical after-school services previously provided to young people at P.S. 191," she said.

But parents weren't confident about the programming since they'd had no introduction to it.

While Hidalgo plans to make alternate plans for her daughter because she knows so little about the YMCA program, she noted that other parents don't have that option and rely on the free 2:30-5:30 p.m. childcare.

A small group of parents is also floating a plan to fund the program until the end of the school year — at a cost of $20,000 — with the help of sponsors and parent contributions, Hidalgo said.

However, Perez noted that independent contributors would not be able to fund a department program.

This is not the first time the school has rallied together to fight a move by the city.

In early 2013, the Department of Education's Education Construction Fund pursued a deal to sell the air rights for P.S. 191 to a developer, a move the school fought. Eventually, the ECF retracted the plan and chose an Upper East Side school site instead. 

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