PLATTSBURGH — Longtime City of Plattsburgh crossing guard Maurice Daniels was placed on leave indefinitely Tuesday after video of him apparently striking a student near a crosswalk outside Stafford Middle School circulated on social media.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page that evening, Mayor Chris Rosenquest said he was made aware of the video and immediately contacted City Police Capt. Brad Kiroy to discuss the issue.
"The issue is under immediate investigation and the employee will not be returning to work until further notice," Rosenquest continued.
"Once the investigation is complete it will be released."
Rosenquest added in a statement Wednesday night that "Juvenile Officer Charlie Wolff under the supervision of Lt. Jarrod Trombley is leading this investigation.
"Thus far 12 witnesses were interviewed today and an additional video relating to the incident was found."
One of two videos reviewed by The Press-Republican starts out with the camera facing down at the sidewalk.
Daniels can be heard saying, "Listen to me — this isn't a joke.
"I don't know who you think you are, but I'm not going to tolerate it," he says as the person holding the camera raises it, bringing Daniels into the frame as he is apparently walking toward the student with a pointed finger.
"When I tell you to move, you move. You understand me?"
At this point, the student — a seventh-grader named Noah Serrano, his father, Michael, confirmed with The Press-Republican — appears to tug at his own mask and say something inaudible, then Daniels apparently hits him with an open hand on the right side of his face.
"Do you understand me?" Daniels can be heard saying in an agitated tone.
In a separate Snapchat video shot from a distance behind Serrano, the apparent slap seems to cause the student's head to jerk to the left and he turns to jog away from Daniels.
Plattsburgh City School District Superintendent of Schools Jay Lebrun said, beyond what was displayed in the video, he had no knowledge of the incident, "be it the context, the activity prior to or following the recording, or why the situation was being filmed."
He learned of a post featuring the video at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, when one of the managers of the district's Facebook page notified him. Lebrun is unaware of any similar incidents between district students and crossing guards.
Noting that principals would know better about what students are taught in school about listening to crossing guards, Lebrun said that, generally at the elementary level, behavioral expectations taught at the start of the school year and reinforced throughout include discussion about entering school, leaving school, being attentive and following directions.
"The district enjoys a very strong working relationship with the Plattsburgh Police Department — likely as strong an inter-municipal partnership as I can envision — and so we trust that they will thoroughly and appropriately investigate this matter and apprise us of all the relevant circumstances," he said.
"I’m equally confident that they will adjudicate this employment matter properly."
Crossing guards who work the intersections near schools throughout the city are employed by City Police, not the school district.
In the city's 2021 budget, $70,400 has been put aside for crossing guard's payroll. Daniels, who is paid $13.95 an hour, earns the most among the six crossing guards.
Mike Kelly (D-Ward 2) submitted a resolution to the 2020 City Common Council calling for partial or full reductions in hours for a variety of city positions, including the six crossing guards City Police employs. The council did not approve the move.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Daniels had not been charged in connection with the incident caught on video, according to Plattsburgh City Court.
The incident occurred the day after Daniels was recognized for his work keeping students safe at crossings.
On Monday, which was pronounced, "Maurice's Day," he was surprised at the start of his shift with $2,000 in cash from the group Tipping North Country, along with signs of encouragement and the news that he had been given the day off, WCAX reported.
In a Tuesday post, Mikey Gines, a co-creator of the Tipping North Country Facebook page, pleaded with people to keep in mind that the group did not know what was going to happen.
"I keep getting messages about the incident and yes I do think it was wrong but again, it has nothing to do with us and what we do here," Gines continued. "There’s nothing we can do to change what happened.
"I have faith that law enforcement will handle the situation accordingly so please, let’s let them handle it and let’s keep any negative comments off this group and let’s move forward with love and positivity for our community!"
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