Friday, May 22, 2009

NY: School principal busted for beating teacher at corporal punishment hearing

NOTE: How's this for irony?

By Jeff Wilkins and Elizabeth Lazarowitz DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Updated Thursday, May 21st 2009, 6:23 PM Read more:

It was an object lesson in irony.

A Brooklyn principal was arrested Thursday on charges of beating up a teacher - at a corporal punishment hearing.

Principal Sean Keaton of Public School 20 allegedly punched and kicked teacher Robert Segarra during a heated exchange over accusations against another educator.

"You need to stop. I'm tired of you," Keaton said after approaching Segarra, 49, from the other side of the table.

"You need to stop. You're in my face," Segarra said he replied.

Keaton began poking him in the face, then suddenly punched him and knocked him to the ground, where he kicked him, Segarra charged.

Segarra, 49, said he refused to fight back.

"Even though he's out of his mind, he's still my supervisor," he said.

Keaton, 38, was arrested around 11 a.m., charged with misdemeanor assault and given a summons to appear in court.

He was removed from the school pending an investigation, Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.

The hearing was called after two students accused a special education teacher at the Clinton Hill school of corporal punishment.

Keaton and an assistant principal were hashing it out with the accused teacher and Segarra, who is also a union official, when tempers flared.

"[Principals] have no right to harass or bully teachers, much less physically assault them," United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said after the fracas.

She said the allegations, if true, are "beyond the pale."

Keaton, who started at PS 20 as a substitute teacher in 1992, has been principal since 2005 and is a divisive figure.

Although some parents praised him Thursday, saying he was "very good with children" and a "good educator," controversy has swirled around him for months.

Anonymous comments at have called him "a disaster. [He's] authoritarian, defensive ... hostile and even abusive to some parents (including the president of the PTA!), sent angry e-mails to parents who dared challenge his authority, and responded defensively to any suggestions."

They complained he "actively discouraged" volunteerism and parent involvement, yells at the kids and will deny an entire grade recess for one student's infraction.

"Shouting at children and imposing blanket punishments seems to be the rule at PS 20," one comment said.

"He's a hothead," said a school employee who asked not to be named.

"I've certainly seen him get angry before," he said. "The smallest things can set him off."

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