ST. ALBANS, Queens — Anissa Phipps said her child was so distraught over what happened to him nearly a year ago at the Riverton Street Charter School in St. Albans, Queens, that she had no other choice but to pull him out of the school.
As a result, the family moved out of New York City altogether.
"I knew the severity of what took place based on how he responded," Phipps said.
In May 2015, Phipps said her son Tamir Phipps' fifth grade classroom at Riverton Street Charter School was on virtual lockdown.
Phipps and her attorney, Chevone Toscano, described a bizarre scenario of a substitute teacher who was filling in for a short time either losing or misplacing her cellphone.
They said students were then allegedly accused, searched and patted down like criminals.
"They were supposed to go to another class after that and then lunch. None of that happened," Toscano said.
For 11-year-old Phipps it went even further. His mother said a teacher's hands searched his private area. Why? Because, his mother was told, he asked to use the bathroom.
"It was stated by the teacher that the cellphone could possibly be in one of their underwear so I guess that prompted her to pat down my son in particular," Phipps said.
The phone in question did turn up, according to Toscano. Inside the teacher's own car.
Another mother whose child was among the 28 students searched and asked us not to show her face said she was shocked when she heard what happened.
Her daughter came home telling her mother she felt violated and searched more invasively than at an airport.
"You frisked 28 kids, called them all thieves, slammed the doors and then the next day, 'Oh, it's my bad,'" the mother said.
Phipps said a letter was sent home to parents on the day of incident.
In a statement to PIX11 News, National Heritage Academies, the organization running Riverton Street Charter School, said:
"The safety and security of all students is a top priority at Riverton Street Charter School. At this time, we've not been officially notified of any pending lawsuit and therefore cannot provide any comments pertaining to that."
Phipps is seeking $350,000 in monetary damages and an apology from the school.