A New York City school for special needs children is a filth hole where roaches climb on children, rats roam the halls and “good-old-boy” staff members engage in sexual harassment, a lawsuit filed by a former employee this week alleges.
The International Institute for the Brain (iBRAIN)’s building on East 91st Street was “extremely filthy” and crawling with vermin– all while receiving up to $350,000 in taxpayer funding per student, ex-worker Katelyn Newman claims in the New York Supreme Court suit filed Jan. 16.
“Leaks in the plumbing were stuffed up with Dorito bags or whatever else was readily available,” when Newman began working at the facility, the complaint reads.
“The carcass of a rat could be seen for an extended time period before it was finally removed, and the ceiling over the entryway where the children entered the building was falling down.”
Despite allegedly receiving $1 million in PPP money in 2020 and $800,000 in 2021, the school also struggled with a “severe lack of equipment,” and students were reportedly forced to sleep on dirty mats.
According to the lawsuit, first reported by The Daily Beast, one student was hospitalized after an incompetent staffer botched a medical procedure, blocking his circulation and causing his legs to swell.
The troubling picture Newman paints of the floundering institution is a far-cry from its advertising.
Founded in 2018, iBRAIN professes to be a “highly specialized educational opportunity” for students ages five through 21 with severe brain injuries or neurological disorders.
Newman worked at the school as a publicity associate beginning in Aug. 2022. She quit in mid-December after what she describes as a prolonged campaign of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
The suit’s most concerning allegations come against Dr. Victor Pedro, who she claims falsified his credentials as a “Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist” made “sexually suggestive” remarks to female staff.
She says Pedro, the school’s Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), pushed an unfounded treatment called Cortical Integrated Therapy (CIT) — and even used to experiment on children in the past, treating them like “guinea pigs.”
Although the lawsuit did not describe what CIT entails, Pedro’s website hawks PEDROCIT®, which he claims is a non-invasive system that “accurately pinpoints and identifies the injured or under-performing areas of the brain.”
The lawsuit notes that the United States Department of Health and Human Services rejected Pedro’s application to have CIT covered by Medicare in 2017.
Two years later, The Providence Journal reported that Rhode Island yanked $1 million in state budget funding for the treatment.
Students were also allegedly exposed to bogus treatments by Rodney Robinson, who is now facing federal charges over a years-long con during which he posed as “Dr. Alim Shariff,” a Harvard-educated behavioral psychologist, the suit said.
Newman also cites inappropriate behavior by Patrick Donohue, iBRAIN’s founder and chairman, whom she says fostered a “‘good old boy’ fraternity” environment among staffers.
Neither Pedro, school officials nor Donohue replied to The Post’s request for comments. Robinson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The stressful environment at iBRAIN, Newman alleges, was further exacerbated by Arthur Mielnik, the Deputy Director of Strategic Planning, and Suzanne Wallach, Director of Strategic Planning.
Wallach’s alleged constant pestering after work hours, in particular, left Newman “depressed, stressed and exhausted,” and she was “compelled to seek professional therapeutic assistance.”
Both Mielnik and Wallach are named in the lawsuit, and did not reply to The Post’s request for comments.
After first attempting resign in Nov. 2022, Newman formally tendered her resignation on Dec. 13.
At this point, the lawsuit states, iBRAIN’s administrators sent letters to her parents, her fiancée, and several professional contacts. The letter accused Newman of violating “‘the New York State Child Abuse and Neglect statues,’” as well as spreading “false, inaccurate and unfounded information” about the school.
“Upon information and belief, defendants clear intent in sending these false written accusations against her to her family members and business contacts was to destroy her personal and professional reputation,” the suit reads.
Speaking to The Daily Beast this week, Newman described her experience as “psychological torture.” She did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for a comment.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial, with damages to be determined in court. When reached by phone, Newman’s lawyer, Kenneth F. McCallion, declined to comment on the case.