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Students At Lower Manhattan H.S. Cause Ruckus Over Bathroom Access

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All was quiet inside Manhattan's Murry Bergtraum High School Friday, a day after students ran wild in a protest against their principal. Ny1’s Roger Clark filed the following report.

It was a hectic scene inside Murry Bergtraum High School yesterday, with hundreds of students running through the hallways and stairwells.

"It was pretty scary to the point there were a lot of people that got into it,” said one student.

Teachers and students say the disturbance broke out after Principal Andrea Lewis announced over the loudspeaker that bathroom passes would not be distributed for the rest of the day following a morning fight between two students. Then, between periods, students began running through the school screaming.

"I saw hundreds of students streaming down the hallway,” recalled teacher John Elfrank-Dana. “I pulled my students back in the room. A teacher ran into my room scared for her life. She was very upset. Then things continued out of control for awhile."

It was all over by the time police reinforcements arrived.

Students say the word about the protest was spread by text messaging, even though cell phones are not permitted in school. There are no metal detectors there either to enforce that rule.

Some students say they were trying to send the principal a message.

"They just wanted the principal to know that you can't take the bathroom away from us, that's what it was,” said 10th grader Donte Williams.

"Don't mess with us, or we'll mess with you pretty much,” said Adonis Aracena, a fellow 10th grader.

Lewis was brought into Murry Bergtraum this year as an "executive principal,” with a salary bump of $25,000 to turn things around at the struggling school. While she would not comment Friday, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew visited the school and met with Lewis, teachers, and Department of Education representatives.

He called both the principal's and students’ actions "inappropriate."

"We have to make sure this behavior doesn't happen,” said Mulgrew. “But, more importantly, you have to make sure the school has a culture that is open to learning and it's safe."

The principals' union released a statement saying that it is, “looking to see what type of assistance the DOE has provided the school in terms of support and security in order to understand and assess the situation.”

The DOE says it is investigating the incident.

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