They want to teach the principal a lesson.
Dozens of students and parents rallied outside a Bronx middle school Thursday, calling on the Department of Education to fire a principal accused of blocking black history lessons in the middle of Black History Month.
Protesters said they want white Principal Patricia Catania expelled after accusations that she confiscated a black history project and berated an English teacher for giving lessons about the Harlem Renaissance at a school just miles from the legendary Cotton Club and the Apollo Theatre.
“Today, once again, she tried to stop black history from being taught in my class,” said Mercedes Liriano-Clark, an English teacher at Intermediate School 224. But the teacher, who is black and Hispanic, said she was undeterred.
“Black history will continue in my classroom,” Liriano-Clark said during a rally outside the school.
Last week, Liriano-Clark said she was in the middle of a class when Catania pulled her aside and told her not to give lessons about the famed Harlem Renaissance movement of literature and art in the 1920s.
Days later, a student said Catania took away a poster board she and another student made for a black history presentation.
Catania, who has been at the school since 2016, has referred questions about the complaints to the city Education Department.
She has worked for the department for 26 years and earns $154,257, according to city records.
An Education Department spokesman has confirmed that complaints against Catania are being investigated.
Sandra Maisonet, 57, a friend and former colleague of Catania’s, confronted the protesters, and said they have the principal all wrong.
“Black lives matter, black history matters, but what’s happening and what’s being reported is not accurate,” Maisonet said. “I’ve known her for over 20 years. I worked with her at another school. I do know her, and I can say she’s a wonderful human being. They have an agenda. This is wrong.”
The Rev. Kevin McCall, a representative of the National Action Network, said Mayor de Blasio shoulders some of the blame for Catania’s behavior.
“For you to allow the mismanagement of the DOE not to be able to remove this principal immediately, it falls on your hands,” McCall said. “So our next step is to City Hall. You will not do that to our students, you will not disrespect us.”