Friday, November 13, 2009

Bogus Charges Hurt Effort to Remove Teachers Who Should Be Removed: Teacher says, "Take a lap (run)"

....sees words twisted into asking a student to "sit on his lap." DOE turns it into sexual harassment charge and 2nd year rubber room assignment.

"I have something that I normally say. I say take a lap and sit on your spot. Students are assigned floor spots. This young lady said, 'Oh, I have to sit on your lap?' and I said, 'No, you heard what I said. You'll take a lap and then sit on your spot,'" Smith said.

See NY1 report.

It is cases like these (and there are so many of them) that undermine and discredit any move to get rid of teachers who should be removed and makes all teachers dig in their heels to assure their protection.

Some may cast doubt on the teacher's version, but I don't doubt he is telling the truth because of the stories coming in.

A teacher at my old school served 15 months in the rubber room and was completely exonerated for a case of having her words twisted. She told a child that if he didn't do his homework he would never get it (the concept they were learning) and unless he did his work he would never learned. She was removed because of a charge she said black kids would never learn. Of course, the principal hated her because she spoke her mind about the mindless policies of the principal.

Last week I attended the 3020 hearing of another teacher, who also resisted this same principal's machinations and was railroaded. She is coming on the completion of her third year in the rubber room. She is charged with putting her hand on the shoulder of a child who had been repeatedly running out of the room pushing her into her seat. In doing so, they claim her finger caught the shirt and 2 buttons came off (her buttons could have been lost). The principal seized on the opportunity and urged the parent to call the police. Thus, a teacher who had been in the school for 22 years with absolutely no record of any incidents, was taken out of the school in handcuffs by 5 police.

At the hearing, large sized photos of supposed bruises were shown. The child's mother testified they were taken by the principal immediately after the incident. We all looked intently for any sign of a bruise, but there were none. By the way, the child had been coming to school with the remnants of a black eye and the teacher had been calling for an investigation before this incident. The child been out of school for weeks and the teacher had talked to the mother as recently as the afternoon before the incident. The principal did nothing.

It came out that the police were totally sympathetic to the teacher, especially after a detective went to the school and investigated. I spoke to the cop a few weeks later. I'll paraphrase what he said: this is clearly trumped up and the principal was behind it. The parent testified that a group of cops sat around her in a circle and urged her to drop charges.

The teacher was released and should have been back in the school soon after. But the DOE is pursuing 3020 charges. Think of what this case is costing them. They pay the teacher 3 years salary to sit in the rubber room, pay the costs of the investigation, bringing in witnesses, pay the DOE lawyer, pay at least 500-800 bucks a day or so for the hearing officer, some of whom sometimes take a nap, as reported by the NY Times' Jennifer Medina yesterday, who I invited to join me at one of the upcoming sessions in this 3020 open hearing and she said she just may do so. (Teachers must request in writing an open hearing before it begins if they want witnesses.)

And then there are those 20 math teachers at Bronx High School of Science where these vendettas go on all the time.

Tenure protection anyone?

Until the DOE stops the witch hunts engaged by principals using the lack of oversight by the DOE, any attempt to make it easier to remove bad teachers will meet stiff resistance. Offer those teachers out of classroom positions (maybe in the press office of Tweed, which has plenty of room). There are certainly things they can find for people to do and it will be much cheaper in the long run.


  1. Thanks for the nice post. I would say that with insecure future in the school no teacher would be able to deliver his/her best. On the other side, some clever minds also take the advantage of this tradition and because of it genuine teachers suffer a lot. It is the ultimate loss of the students.

  2. When I worked on Wall Street, if a boss didn't like me, I was screwed. For this reason, the underlings always kissed but and bowed to the executives. The policies on Wall Street can certainly be scrutinized in light of our economic problems.
    For Bloomberg and Klein to bring this same policy to our public schools is idiocentric. As the evaluation policy stands now, I principal picks and chooses who gets a s or a u before they even come in for an observation. I hope the UFT stands its ground in current negotiations and doesn’t give the DOE any more power to remove great teachers by idiocentric principals.


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