When Kids From a Ritzy Private School Burned Down a Public School Playground, Parents Somehow Took It As a Class Issue


About a half a month ago, a group of kids who were thought to be from the prestigious St. Ann's private school traveled fourteen blocks over to Public School 29, another strong educational institution. Planning to make a YouTube video, they set fire to PS 29's playground. They fled before firefighters could arrive to put out the blaze, but four underage kids have been arrested and two 16-year-old St. Ann's students have surrendered to police. (All of them are thought to attend the private school, according to the Times.) Some parents see this as a case of "teenagers being teenagers," while others see the crime as indicative of a larger class issue.

Max Layton, the son of film distributor Charles Layton, is one of the kids accused. His lawyer helped set up a $50,000 fund to fix the playground after the damage. The response to this gesture is almost more telling of the class situation than the fire itself:

"People here seek community service, some degree of standing up and taking the blame, rather than setting up some $50,000 fund," said Gary Dovey, 50, of Cobble Hill, who was collecting his twins from prekindergarten at P.S. 29 on Monday. Mr. Dovey added: "I think it's a good start, but this really isn't an issue of money in the end. It's about the process of law, and it not being brushed under the carpet and a plea deal." ...

[Layton's lawyer] said that he did not think the $50,000 would have any influence on the criminal case, and that "it wasn’t done for that purpose." It was done, he said, because parents took responsibility for their children's actions. "People can scream and yell and they won’t have their playground," he said. "This is the quickest way to get their playground back."

It tells you something about the class makeup at PS 29 itself when parents just brush aside "some $50,000 fund" as though it's a bunch of pennies on the sidewalk.

After a Fire, a Tension Between Two Schools [NYT]