MASTIC BEACH, NY — A William Floyd High School senior who was suspended Tuesday for trying to attend classes in-person against the district’s coronavirus protocols was cited with a criminal trespassing notice on Wednesday.
Maverick Stow, 17, said he went back to the high school Wednesday morning and was given the criminal trespass notice by school officials. The notice, written to Stow’s parents, said: “Your child is hereby warned that on the next occasion he is found illegally on any William Floyd School District property, the police will be notified and he will be prosecuted for third degree criminal trespass.”
The notice was signed by Lisa Paschitti, assistant principal of the high school.
Stow also said the police were present “but they were not able to make an arrest because I didn’t get the notice until this morning.”
James Montalto, spokesman for the William Floyd School District, confirmed that Stow received the criminal trespass notice Wednesday.
“Our district agrees with Maverick’s position that school should be held in person five days per week. However, we must follow the social distancing requirements set forth by the state; and, when it is deemed safe to do so by our government and health officials, we will gladly welcome all of our 8,800 students back,” he said. “It is important for Maverick and his family to understand that we do not set state policy, enact laws or write executive orders, but we do abide by them. We cannot have students showing up to school on their non-scheduled in-person days and when requested to leave displaying insubordinate behavior to multiple school officials and refusing to follow their instructions. His rights as a student do not surpass the rights of the other 8,799 students we have the privilege of educating. If his goal is to get school open five days per week, he is encouraged to take his advocacy to his state elected officials.”
Additionally, the district said: “Maverick showed up to school again this morning despite his suspension and continued to display insubordinate behavior — even at one point squaring up to a district official and stating that the district would have to ‘forcibly remove’ him from school grounds. As a district we must work to ensure a safe and disruption-free environment for students who are following the rules and showing up to learn.”
The district added: “We take school safety seriously and since he has escalated this situation, the police are now involved. When a student is suspended off of school grounds for any reason, we cannot and will not tolerate students trying to gain access to our grounds or buildings. We work extremely hard to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
Additionally, the district said, the pandemic has illuminated the inequities in school districts based on their zip codes.
“We have a 65 percent free and reduced meal rate and more than 300 students who are classified as homeless. We are unable to provide all of our students with the technology they need for remote learning at this time, and when we can, some do not even have internet access. With additional mandates being handed down regularly along with a reduction in state aid — and with more possible — it has become the perfect storm.”
Stow said he set out Tuesday morning to the first day of his senior year and was suspended because he tried to attend in-person instruction rather than participate in virtual learning as his schedule required. A school official said Stow’s actions were disruptive as the school tries to adhere the state’s social distancing guidelines.
“You have to take the consequences for standing up for what you believe in,” said Stow, who lives in Mastic Beach.
Stow said he took the bus to school, where staff performed the mandated temperature check under coronavirus protocols. He then proceeded to class.
“It wasn’t my day to go to school but obviously, I disagreed, so I went into class,” he said. “I wasn’t on the roster so the assistant principal got involved.”
Stow was called into Principal Philip Scotto’s office, where he said he was told he needed to vacate the grounds. Stow said Scotto told him that the district needed to adhere to guidelines, which meant he had to leave.
“I refused,” Stow said. Scotto then told him that if he did not leave as directed, he would be suspended for insubordination.
“I left his office and went back to class,” Stow said. He said he attended his complete schedule of classes. At the end of the day, he was contacted by his mother, Nora Kaplan-Stow.
“My parents are fully supportive of this,” he said. “She told me I had been suspended for five days and the district was taking disciplinary action for insubordination.”
“Kids need to be in school every day. Virtual learning is not learning,” Nora Kaplan-Stow told ABC 7. “My son is being suspended because he wants to be in school.”
Stow said he made the decision to attend classes as soon as the district announced they would be following a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning.
“I didn’t think it was acceptable,” he said. “I figured I would go to school and it would be a ‘them’ problem, to figure it out.”
On the first day of class, Stow said, “I didn’t know what was going to happen this morning. I thought I might get carried out the front door by security guards.”
Stow believes the district claims there were “opportunities for us to sit and peacefully discuss this, to talk to them about the reopening plan, but there weren’t. They made this decision on their own and kept us out of the whole decision-making process.”
“It was a ‘them’ decision,” he said. “We were never given the opportunity to voice our opinions. At a certain point, you have to take a stand and make it so they can’t ignore you anymore.”
The district laid out its reopening plans on its website and held virtual briefings where individuals could submit questions in advance.
Stow said he, like so many other students, saw their dreams derailed when the coronavirus shuttered schools last spring.
An active member of the Future Business Leaders of America, Stow said he was scheduled to attend a national competition in Salt Lake City, Utah, but the event was canceled. In addition, as a member of the virtual enterprise program, he was meant to attend a trade show in Brooklyn, New York, with 15,000 students from virtual enterprise firms worldwide. That event, too, never took place.
“Last year, a lot was taken away,” Stow said.
This year, due to the pandemic, the district is not offering sports or extracurricular activities, Stow said. “Our tax dollars go to those programs. Where is that money going if we don’t have sports or extra-curricular activities?”
Of Tuesday’s suspension, Stow said: “The district seems to think students peacefully speaking their minds and making their voices heard is an unacceptable practice that seems to be disciplined quite harshly.”
He said he realized showing up for classes was a “pretty extreme measure that requires a certain amount of risk.”
Stow said he has a message for fellow students, the school district and community: “Anyone who believes that education is valuable should want students to be in school five days a week, with extracurricular and sports activities to go along with it. Anyone who feels as strongly as I do about this should participate and make it so the administration can’t ignore it any longer.”
This article originally appeared on the Shirley-Mastic Patch