Last week, a 34-year-old art teacher at Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, Sabrina Milo, was arrested for making terroristic-style threats after she said she might bring a gun to school and make it “like Columbine all over again”. She has since said she “wasn’t thinking” and was “just venting”—apparently, she had discovered she was the subject of an investigation, the Daily News reports, the second recent such inquiry; this school year marked her first return to the classroom since assigned to one of the infamous rubber rooms last spring. But “I had no intention of doing anything harmful to anybody,” she said.
The incident has divided students and faculty. Students planned to walk out today at noon in support of their art teacher. “Ms. Milo jokes around all the time,” one senior told the Brooklyn Paper. “I know she wasn’t serious when she said it.” That sentiment seemed representative of the student body, one of which even credited Milo with getting him on track to graduate.
One former student described Ms. Milo to me as “quirky.” “She had a laid-back teaching style. It was a relaxed classroom, she was a younger teacher. She tried to relate to us on a friendly level, which was different than how most teachers behaved,” the former student told me. “She seemed more like a pothead than a gun freak.”
While reaction among students seemed overwhelmingly supportive, reaction from faculty has been mixed. One teacher told the Brooklyn Paper that “Milo was under a lot of pressure. [Principal JoAnn] Chester, he explained, ‘goes after a lot of people…it’s hard being a teacher at this school,’ he said.
I asked a teacher if the principal shared the blame for this brouhaha. “No, no, no,” this teacher told me. “This is definitely a Milo-fueled fiasco.”
But, mostly, teachers I could contact were eager to put this business behind them and return to the hard work of daily education. (Fort Hamilton was also recently in the news after one student attacked another with hydrochloric acid in a chemistry lab.)
“I would just like to see Fort Hamilton out of magazines and papers for negative things,” one teacher said. “Write about how we have many amazing programs, kids, teachers, and that we have pressures from everyone and everywhere who think they can do our job better.”
“I echo those feelings,” another teacher said. “Drama exists in all schools, but not all schools are as successful as we are when it comes to our staff, kids, programs. And we do it at 200 percent capacity! Our kids go on to do great things—you are proof of that.”
Full disclosure: I graduated from Fort Hamilton High School, the third generation in my family to do so. (Not only did my parents both attend, in addition to numerous aunts and uncles, but my grandmother was among the first students when the school opened in 1941!) (Also, thanks to the unnamed/invisible friends who helped me with this story, in some cases even reporting it for me!)