Monday, July 16, 2012

Outrage at Christine Rubino Two Year Suspension for Facebook Transgression

When we last saw Christine Rubino, the New York State Supreme Court vacated the Department of Education’s penalty for comments she made on her private Facebook page. The penalty was termination. The arbitrator who came up with the penalty, Randi Lowitt, knew that this was the outcome the DOE wanted. She was probably the only arbitrator ever to have the head of the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit, Theresa Europe, stare daggers at her throughout the hearing to ensure she came to the right decision. -- The Assailed Teacher
After Rubino appealed the decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe overturned the termination as too harsh. While “offensive” and “repulsive,” Jaffe concluded, Rubino’s remarks were made outside the school building, after hours, and were only circulated among adult Facebook friends. Jaffe found no evidence that Rubino meant the kids any actual harm or that her outburst “affected her ability to teach” — and sent the matter back to Lowitt.---- NY Post
Did Edelman EVER question how much the DOE is spending to get rid of a quality teacher? --- Ed Notes
Good for Judge Barbara Jaffe. Remember how Walcott and Bloomberg thought the arbitrator in the turnaround case was wrong or how the arbitrators who did not fire teachers were wrong. And how Bloomberg lamented how rare it is for the courts to overturn the rulings of arbitrators?

Today is Christine Rubino blogging day for a group of NYC bloggers who support Christine. See Afterburn for the others blogs today so far.

There are a number of villains in the Christine Rubino story but she is not one of them. Hmmm, where do we start?

Villain 1: Theresa Europe and her ATU lawyers
When looking for villains I always go with Theresa Europe, the evil head of the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit.

Europe would send Jesus to the cross to embellish her conviction stats to continue to justify the existence of the office she is leading into infamy. Rather than focusing on the so-called "bad" teachers, she instead has spent enormous amounts of money trying to get rid of highly skilled teachers who might have committed a minor transgression that in the old days might call for a letter in the file. She has taken things to such a level, even the courts, which rarely overturn decisions, have been doing so. See my post: Courts DO Overturn Arbitrator's Decisions in Bloomberg's Kangaroo 3020a Hearings.

One of Theresa Europe's "innovations" at the ATU has been to look deep into the past to try to pile on charges like "he peed on the toilet seat -- we have the video to prove it." One of the best I heard was at Patricia Dawson's 3020a hearing where a story about her walking around with a bat was brought up to give the impression she was looking to bash a kid -- or her principal's - head in when in fact she was celebrating Herman Melville day by using the bat to imitate Captain Ahab.

Why did Europe spend so much time at this hearing -- a major misuse of DOE funds? To intimidate teachers into not having open hearings. I know, I know, Sue Edelman attended this one and we know that she would gladly join Europe in putting nails into Jesus but by opening the hearings you demonstrate you believe you are innocent and you also put everyone on the spot for follow-ups, especially DOE lying bastard witnesses. So keep em open I say and let Europe stew.

We are seeing the results of Europe's witch hunts and it is important to get the word out to the public that they are going after good teachers. I used the PEP meetings I went to this year to challenge Walcott on persecution of good  teachers in that public forum, pointing out that he was sanctioning a policy that would taint the only method of actually removing tenured teachers who should be removed. Imagine the costs for this shotgun approach when the funds could be used to conduct honest and thorough investigations?

Christine Rubino's crime of the century
So what exactly did Christine Rubino do? She made a comment that many frustrated teachers might make after a tough day, the kind of comments you might hear in any teachers room. But she did not make this comment in a teacher room but on Facebook.

"After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class. I hate their guts."

The comment was made the day after a 12-year-old girl drowned at the beach on a class trip. Remember the first year teacher of that class who was nontenured was scapegoated and fired while the Assistant Principal in charge who opted out of going on a trip he planned and was supposed to attend was demoted to a teacher. And the principal escaped until he did something else wrong (and is now running a charter school).

NYSUT lawyer Chris Calegy in another facebook case made the important point about what teachers can say in a teachers room vs Facebook. What's next, recording devices in teacher rooms? Lowlife snitches taking time out from drooling over their sandwiches to run to the principal crying, "Norm Scott just walked and said he wants to kill he entire class?" SWAT teams surround the building? I'm not kidding here. You just watch for an upcoming case where teacher room comments are used to fire a teacher.

Europe had her loser lawyers dig up other charges --- one of their top ten hits is to find ways of charging the teacher with trying to cover up. Thus even though Christine's friend lied and claimed she had written the FB post, Christine was the one accused of lying.

The Assailed Teacher pretty well sums up our view of the DOE lawyers:
The DOE lawyers will introduce the charges, then they will introduce more charges that they never showed you or your lawyer beforehand. They will then ask the arbitrator, and receive from the arbitrator, permission to add more charges, evidence and witnesses as the hearing progresses. They literally make it up as they go along. Many of these DOE lawyers would be selling apples in the subway if this 3020a process did not exist. They call themselves lawyers, but they are more like law school dropouts and graduates of online JD courses, where all one needs for a degree is a printer and mouse that clicks. And why not? The DOE does not need good lawyers when the process is so skewed in its favor. --The Assailed Teacher
Talk to Francesco Porteles about his charges, a list of which will make you roll on the floor. Something like he used voodoo to spook some computers. Theresa Europe will have her ace lawyers find some chicken bones to cinch the voodoo charge.

Villain 2: Sue Edelman and the NY Post
How about NY Post reporter Sue Edelman who would open a teacher's vein if that would embellish another dishonest story? Take this from her latest outrage:
A Brooklyn teacher fired for posting “repulsive’’ Facebook comments suggesting her misbehaving students should drown now faces only a two-year suspension without pay.
Gee, ONLY a 2-year suspension without pay. Just a little bit of editorializing there Sue. How about a 2-year suspension without pay for Edelman for distorted reporting? Her crime is way more serious than Christine's as Edelman violates basic rules of professional reporting and public responsibility given the ability of the press to influence public opinion. That is why juries are so hard to pick in the real world instead of the make believe justice in the DOE.

It should be fun to watch the political house of cards come down on Rupert and he lets the Post slip into sewer it crawled out of.

Want to see some great reporting on Christine's case? The Assailed Teacher has been relentless in reporting the facts. Here's a fact:
Edelman brought a photographer with a telescopic lens to stalk 51 Chambers Street in order to catch a "candid" photograph of Christine Rubino.
Make sure to tell the photographer to get the very worst photo they can get to make the teacher look guilty.
Villain 3: Randi Lowitt
What can you say about this character who is smacked down by a real judge? How about a 2 year suspension from being an arbitrator for making dumb-ass decisions? And by the way, the union has the ability to use its blackball but probably won't. (The DOE blackballed the great arbitrator who ruled in favor of David Pakter.)

Assailed Teacher continues:
Throughout her entire hearing, Christine was remorseful about what she had said. At no point did she stand by her words or try to defend them. She owned up to her actions for what they were: a mistake, a lapse of judgment, a regrettable action. This was not enough for the DOE or Randi Lowitt or the media or the lynch mob of public opinion. Terminate her, ensure her children starve and never allow her around children again. Meanwhile, the accused child molester who ratted her out gets to work another year in a public school building. Way to go, all of you.
.... the DOE releases information to Sue Edelman so she can do one of her trademark hatchet jobs...Sue Edelman of the Post wrote another article about the case today[about] the two-year suspension. The arbitrator's new ruling really harped on Christine's supposed "lying" to investigators, even though it was her friend who did the "lying" on her own without the blessing, knowledge or collaboration with Christine. Edelman mentions this "obstruction" charge in her article.
In other words, the entire basis of the original charge seemed to disappear in the ruling to suspend Christine without pay by arbitrator Randi Lowitt who was so burned by the overturning of her decision to have Christine fired that Lowitt decided to make her lose her house, bankrupt her and maybe cause her kids to starve.
Randi Lowitt’s new decision reads like something written by a woman scorned, an arbitrator who had her ridiculous ruling overturned, a primal scream of vindictive pettiness. She makes very little mention of Christine’s Facebook comment and, instead, bases her two-year suspension on the fact that one of Christine’s friends lied during the investigation.-- Assailed Teacher
Villain 4: The principal

I'll let Assailed T tell this one:
who is this coworker who informed on Christine Rubino? A man who is currently awaiting his own 3020a hearing for abuse charges that could wind him up in prison. This is one of the seedy underbellies of school politics. There are informants in every building. Usually, the informants are those with lots to hide: either they are creeps or incompetent. They play the role of informant because that is what gets them through another year. It is the only role that they are able to play, one that shines the spotlight on others in order to take it off themselves. It is a system conducive to destroying good teachers while protecting the worst our profession has to offer.
Of course, these informants would not have any power if not for a principal who feeds into their informing. In my experience, most administrators are happy to have a few glad-handers and back-slappers on their staffs, ones who share gossip in hushed tones in the principal’s office.
And then there is the matter of what the principal did with this information. Despite the lines that principals run that they do not have a choice but to call in complaints to the DOE, there is always a choice. A human being with people skills might have called Rubino into her office, asked about the post and gave her a reminder of professional conduct outside of school hours. At the very worst, the principal could have given her a letter in the file. The transgression did not warrant anything more than some sort of in-house disciplinary action.
One interesting sidenote here is that the long-time now retired principal of PS 203K was the late Sidney Aronson who was married to Woody Allen's sister Letty Aronson who now produces his movies. I know of a case of a teacher at the school many years ago who was accused of some nonsense that took place outside the school hours and we were outraged that he put a letter in the teacher's file. But basically Aronson, being old school, had a decent rep, unlike the little monster principals running around today.

Villain 5: The Union
Aside from the fact that Rubino’s original, union-appointed (NYSUT) lawyer advised her to resign at the outset of the hearing (like telling someone on trial for a murder they did not commit to pull the trapdoor on the gallows with them standing on it) how could we let a story like this go without putting some heat on NYSUT/UFT?

It is my belief that if the union shone a spotlight on a tainted system that persecuted innocent and quality teachers and proudly declared they would rigorously defend teachers under any circumstance (except for the most egregious) and fight for penalties to be lodged against DOE lawyers and OIS investigators who made up charges on the fly, they would cause the DOE to be a little more careful about going after the jobs of teachers like Christine. And also that they would provide financial support for teachers to fight certain cases in court.

If only the union said "that is our job" and stopped worrying about how such a stand looked to the public and stopped worrying about the NY Post and all the other slugs attacking them -- which they do no matter how they snivel around.

Rubino fired her union attorney and hired former NYSUT lawyer Brian Glass, who also handled the Peter Lamphere successful court case overturning his illegal U rating. Now Peter did get some financial help from the UFT but not for both U suits, so he had to create a defense fund.

Many years ago, just as their terms as ICE reps on the UFT Exec Board were running out, Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno offered a suggestion that the union hire paralegals to do investigations immediately and not leave them solely in the hands of the DOE and OIS people who are directed by DOE lawyers to find ways to fire teachers for spitting on the sidewalk. Of course it was laughed at. Imagine the check and balance that would create on the DOE? Imagine also law suits directed at Theresa Europe and her gang and all the supervisors who are caught lying under oath? Only a proactive, aggressive stance by the union will give the future Christine Rubino's a fair shot.

A union really interested in defending teacher rights would help her but they let her drown financially end emotionally. She is no longer a working teacher and no longer a union member so they don't care despite the fact she is fighting for every teacher who becomes a target.

I know some of your own colleagues might take a hard tack that Christine made a serious error. She admits that, though frankly I have heard all kinds of venting in teacher rooms. And Facebook may be the new teacher room. In essence teacher rights to vent and rant in social media are under assault. I guess given that we have Gitmo still operating, any rights still left should be cherished.

A Paypal account has been established to help Christine and her family. Please, give whatever you can.


  • Christine took down her comments a few days after posting them, before any investigation or accusation was made against her. Throughout the hearing, she never defended or stood by her words. She was remorseful from start to finish.
  • The DOE threw more accusations against her during the course of the hearing, things that took place years ago that never resulted in any disciplinary action back then, had no bearing on the case and were basically lies on the part of the DOE.
  • Theresa Europe, head of administrative trials for the DOE, was at the hearing daily staring at arbitrator Randi Lowitt.
  • Christine Rubino never lied once during the investigation or hearing, yet lying was one of the factors Lowitt used to terminate Christine. It played an even more prominent role in this most recent Lowitt decision.
  • Christine is a single mother with two children. She has already lost her house as a result of this termination. Now, she faces another year of being unable to make a living or support her children. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How in the world can the Department of Education go after Christine Rubino while appearing to turn a blind eye to Department attorneys who have made inappropriate online comments?

Double standard?

No standard?

Disparate treatment?

The supervisory attorneys at the Department of Education should be hanging their heads in shame over the way Christine Rubino was treated, especially when compared to the "kid glove manner" they handle the attorneys who report to them.

Apparently, both Joseph Baranello and Philip Oliveri posted inappropriate commentary online. Either no significant disciplinary action was taken by the Department or whatever action was taken never became public.