June 8,2007 (GBN News): A Brooklyn middle school student today became the first recipient of a new cash incentive program of the NY City Department of Education. But in what can only be described as a surreal scene, his triumph suddenly took an ugly turn.
The day began routinely enough. In an assembly at MS 322, attended by both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein, seventh grader Josh Bigham was awarded $50 for scoring a perfect grade on a recent interim assessment. The cash awards are designed to provide an incentive for students to improve their test scores, and Josh’s achievement appeared to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness. “Up till now,” Josh said with a beaming Mayor and Chancellor looking on, “I couldn’t pass a test no matter how hard I tried. But when they told us about the $50, all of a sudden it was a snap. Like I just couldn’t get a wrong answer if I tried!”
But it was when Josh was asked what he intended to do with the money that things started to go downhill for the young man. No sooner had he replied that he intended to use the money to buy a new cell phone, three imposing looking men in dark suits suddenly barged in and spirited him out of the room. The apparent abduction occurred so fast that no one in the room was able to get a good look at the men, but they appeared to be talking in some sort of Slavic language. The other children in the room shrieked in panic, but oddly, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein looked on impassively, seemingly unperturbed by the bizarre turn of events.
It was not until later in the day that GBN News learned what had actually occurred. A source deep inside the DOE confirmed that the three men were part of a “Quick Response Unit” loyal to School Security Chief Emomali Rakhmon. Mr. Rakhmon, until recently the President of Tajikistan, has begun a severe crackdown on cell phones at the Mayor’s request. The former Tajik strongman is said to have secretly instituted a rule banning so much as the mention of cell phones on school property, and Josh unwittingly became the first victim of the new regulation. The DOE source also confirmed that Josh will be held indefinitely at “Little Gitmo”, a youth detention facility for cell phone violators created as one of Mr. Rakhmon’s school security reforms.
Civil Rights attorney Norman Siegel, speaking on behalf of Mr. Bigham’s parents, challenged the legality of both the new cell phone regulations and the detention facility as “excessive” and “draconian”. However, the mayor suggested that the parents were overreacting. “So he got detention”, the Mayor said to reporters. “Detention has always been a part of school. The kid should stop whining and suck it up.” It was unclear if Josh will be able to keep the $50.