Department of Justice Expands Inquiry into New Rochelle's Failure to Evacuate Wheelchair-Bound Students During January Fire

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Department of Justice Expands Inquiry into New Rochelle's Failure to Evacuate Wheelchair-Bound Students During January Fire

June 17, 2013 - 22:51

NRHSNewWingNEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A federal inquiry by the United States Department of Justice into the New Rochelle Board of Education has expanded, according to a letter obtained by Talk of the Sound. The inquiry was launched following an electrical fire at New Rochelle High School during which two wheel-chair bound students were not evacuated along with other students.

The letter, from New Rochelle Assistant Superintendent Diane Massimo, was sent to parents of mobility impaired students in April.

The initial inquiry concerned two current students at New Rochelle.

The letter states that Rebecca Martin, an Assistant United States Attorney is contacting parents with children who are permanently mobility impaired or were temporarily mobility impaired during the 2011-2013 and 2012-13 school years.

DOJ Spokesperson Herb Haddad told Talk of the Sound that Martin had no comment beyond that her inquiry continues.

In February, Talk of the Sound was first to report that the school district was the subject of a federal probe into violations of Title II of the American's with Disabilities Act of 1990 by the United States Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York.

The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to investigate alleged violations of Title II.

The district was notified that an inquiry had begun in a letter February 14, 2013.

The inquiry was initiated from within the Department of Justice based on recent news accounts of a fire incident at New Rochelle High School which appeared in The Journal News and Talk of the Sound.

A similar electrical fire occurred on June 7th after the district's electrical equipment caused an explosion causing massive carbon monoxide levels in the school.

The poor response by school officials raised serious questions about the New Rochelle Board of Education's Emergency Preparedness plans.


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May 2013 was the 45th anniversary of the 1968 fire that burned NRHS down. It was an event that all students there at the time, including myself, recall clearly to this day.

Fortunately, no students were hurt in that fire, nor presumably in the fires of 2013.

Student safety should always be a priority. The safety of anyone disabled cannot be ignored, and needs to be investigated.