A Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences (1830 Shore Boulevard) teacher was arrested by police yesterday for bringing an air rifle and a toy handgun into the building, but others say that she had the school’s permission and was busted for bumping heads with the school’s administration.
English teacher Vilma Latalladi, 53, walked into the school lobby carrying the rifle, a replica Red Ryder made famous in the film A Christmas Story, in her hands. A source tells Sheepshead Bites she approached the security desk and Assistant Principal Michael Weinstein to clear the items for a class demonstration. She was given the green-light, and headed to the elevator with two other teachers.
The phony firearms were intended to be used in a lesson plan. Her husband, Rick Luisi, told the Daily News that they’ve got the documentation to prove that she had clearance.
“She was gonna do a lesson a plan — something about talking about violence with the kids,” husband Rick Luisi said Thursday at their family home in the Rockaways. “My wife could take a staple and make it into a lesson plan.”
… “She cleared it with security, she had already gone through security and was in the classroom when they started to make a big deal about it,” Luisi said. “There’s documentation to prove it.”
After police put the teacher in handcuffs, they brought her to Coney Island Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, and charged her with Prohibited Use of a Weapon and Unlawful Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds, according to the NYPD.
But a teacher at the school told Sheepshead Bites that it’s a whole lot of hullabaloo, and an example of mismanagement by the school’s administrator.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, the long-time teacher at the school told Sheepshead Bites that Latalladi not only had permission, but was also the one to call the cops.
After heading to the classroom with security’s permission, the guard and assistant principal decided to pay Latalladi a visit.
“She called the police because she thought they were harassing her, and they called because they had to,” the source said.
At least 40 police officers arrived on the scene although the school never went into lockdown, the source said. The NYPD would not confirm whether they received the initial call from Latalladi.
The source said the conflict had deep roots in the relationship between Latalladi and the school’s administration.
“They’ve been butting heads for a while,” the source said. “It’s been an ongoing power struggle between the [Latalladi and Weinstein] where she was observed by the AP a few weeks ago and she wrote a letter to the superintendent saying they were harassing her.”
The source said the problems extend far beyond the one teacher, and that the administration has a record of heavy-handed reprisals.
“This administration is like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. If she was allowed to go upstairs and that was acceptable, then why was she was arrested?” the source said. “My feeling about the administration is that it’s generally heavy-handed. If any teacher did something they didn’t like, they can get her arrested? And he ordered a psychiatric evaluation, which I’m not even sure is legal.”
The teacher also griped about how the administration handled the affair afterwards. They sent a letter home to parents describing the incident, but little else.
“There was no meeting called for the staff [yesterday] afternoon, which would have been the right thing to do. You don’t have to give us the dirty details, but basically say we did A, B and C,” the source said. “My concern is that they did not, in my estimation, follow a protocol that was taking everybody’s safety into account.”
Even the source noted, however, that bringing any form of gun into school was not the wisest decision.
“Why would she bring a gun into school? I can’t even imagine what she was thinking,” said the source. “If a kid makes a threatening gesture like pretending his hand is a gun, he can be suspended from school.”
A call to the school’s principal was not returned by publication. We will update this post if we receive a response.