Enough With the Soft Penalties for Bad Teachers!

I am sick of reading about terrible teachers getting whipped with a feather for grossly unprofessional and immoral behaviour. Why they can’t be given their marching orders makes no sense to me. Some of these offences are awful.

Who would want their child exposed to these people?

A health teacher at a high school in Manhattan, joking about life for homosexuals in prison, forced a male student to bend over a desk, lined up behind him to simulate a sex act, then quipped, according to an Education Department investigative report, “I’ll show you what’s gay.”

A high school science teacher in the Bronx who had already been warned about touching female students brushed his lower body against one student’s leg during a lab exercise, coming so close that she told investigators she could feel his genitals through his pants.

And a math teacher at a high school in the Bronx, investigators said, sent text messages to and called one of his female students nearly 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, parked himself at the McDonald’s where she worked.

The New York City Education Department wanted to fire these teachers. But in these and 13 other cases in recent years in which teachers were accused of inappropriate behavior with students, the city was overruled by an arbitrator who, despite finding wrongdoing, opted for a milder penalty like a fine, a suspension or a formal reprimand.

As a result, 14 of those 16 teachers are still teaching and in contact with students, on either a daily or occasional basis. The other two were removed from their positions within the last month when new allegations of misbehavior surfaced against them, according to the Education Department. The department released records of the 16 cases, including reports compiled by the department’s special commissioner of investigation and the arbitrators’ rulings, under a Freedom of Information request.

The subject of teachers behaving inappropriately has suddenly emerged as a pressing concern, given the arrests of at least seven school employees on sexual offenses involving students in the last three months, including one Tuesday of an assistant principal in the Bronx who was accused of groping two girls.

In two of those cases, the employees had a history of behaving improperly around students, but simply moved to another school and kept working. So in February, Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, ordered a review of all substantiated cases of misconduct. After the review, he fired four aides and began proceedings to fire four tenured teachers.

But as the 16 newly released cases show, they will not be easy decisions. As in many states, New York law grants tenured teachers the right to a hearing in front of an arbitrator before they can be fired. Teachers can also appeal an arbitrator’s ruling to a civil court.

“As I was reviewing these cases, I said, ‘Huh? How could this person go back to the classroom?’ ” Mr. Walcott said in an interview Thursday. “It’s very frustrating. Definitely my hands are tied because the arbitrator made a ruling, because I would not have put these people back in the classroom.”

 

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