All is not well at Independence High School on Manhattan's West Side. Since June, Principal Ron Smolkin has been the target of criminal and internal investigations into whether he sent an anonymous letter accusing a teacher of, among other things, deliberately spreading AIDS to young boys.
Almost three weeks after NY1 first reported the investigations, Smolkin is still running the school. The teacher, Michael McPherrin, seen above, has been pulled from the classroom while the Department of Education considers disciplinary charges against him. Those charges were brought by the principal.
"Twenty-three years and nothing in my file but positive feedback on my work. I think my record speaks for myself," said McPherrin.
McPherrin said he thinks the real reason he has been removed from the classroom is retaliation for speaking out. He thinks the principal sent the anonymous letter to his co-op management, trying to ruin his reputation.
The letter is filled with hateful charges against McPherrin and his partner, like, "The two men use their pets as a lure for young boys in the neighborhood, along with the promise of illegal drugs.”
McPherrin hired a handwriting analyst, who found it "highly likely" the writing in the letter matched samples McPherrin says were the principal's.
Smolkin's lawyer said his client denies the allegations. The Manhattan district attorney, State Human Rights Commission and teachers union are all investigating.
After NY1's initial report, teachers, students and former students started a Facebook page and rallied to support McPherrin.
"As soon as the news was on, you could see on Facebook everybody writing, 'Oh, that's messed up. Why would Ron do that to Mike? Mike is such a good person.'"
The principal now accuses McPherrin of misconduct and insubordination. McPherrin says the charges are trumped-up.
"I think that he's retaliating against me," said McPherrin.
The teachers' union is backing McPherrin. Its lawyers are trying to get him back into the classroom. The union newspaper is running a story about teachers' problems with Smolkin.
Students plan to hold another rally for their teacher on Wednesday, and the teachers' union has planned a rally in front of the school on April 28 with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
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