Jul 29, 2014
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Officials Decry 'Rape' Sign at Charter School Protest

Posters linking proposal for Success Academy to share space with McKinney JHS to 'rape' is criticized by both sides of debate.

Officials Decry 'Rape' Sign at Charter School Protest Officials Decry 'Rape' Sign at Charter School Protest

Officials on both sides expressed dismay over signs held at a protest in Fort Greene last week that likened forcing a public school to share space with a charter school to rape.

At an Oct. 11 rally against the proposed co-location of Success Academy at Susan McKinney JHS 265, a student held up a poster that said, “Forcing something where it’s not wanted sounds pretty much like rape."

Similar signs held by school-age children calling the co-location process "rape" were also spotted at the protest.

The sign was denounced in an op-ed in the New York Post written by a Success Academy teacher on Friday.

The Department of Education has proposed giving the third floor of the Park Avenue school to Success Academy, a network of charter schools started by former city Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. Currently, the floor is used for McKinney's extensive arts program.  

Success Academy officials said the sign showed the nature of the anti-co-location protests.

"Not only are opponents spreading misinformation about our school, but they are doing so by using hate language instead of offering a respectful dialogue about educational options that families in the Fort Greene neighborhood desire and deserve," said Success Academy spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis. 

A spokeswoman for New York Communities for Change, which helped organize the rally, said the nonprofit did not have anything to do with the sign. 

"Students and parents made the signs," said Olivia Leirer. "We think the sign was definitely in poor taste."

But, Leirer added, "We also understand that students and parents feel voiceless. They feel excluded from the process."

Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Fort Greene, who attended the rally, came out even more strongly againt the slogan, calling it "inappropriate and offensive." 

"Obviously the analogy between rape and co-location is ridiculous and insensitive to the violent nature of rape," she said.

But she said she hopes the rally's message of protecting McKinney's arts studio space and other third floor programs wouldn't be lost, noting that after the rally a Department of Education official did a walk-through of the school with her.

"We were successful in getting DOE to the table," she said. 

"There's been suggestions that I'm anti charter," she added. "What I am about is making sure that children have enough space to grow and flourish." 

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