The New York Daily News recently reported that more than a dozen NYC teachers are back in the classroom after charges ranging from excessive familiarity with students to downright sexual misconduct.
During his review of employee records last month, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott identified 16 teachers who should go, but he can’t fire them because, as the Daily News explains, “independent arbitrators already decided their offenses were not cause for firing.”
It took persistent investigative journalism and a formal Freedom of Information Law request to get even this much information. One gym teacher, accused of telling a student he loved and dreamed about her, then showed up at her house, is back at work at his Bronx public school.
“It’s crazy, honestly,” said Jasmine Torres, whose son is attends the school. “[The gym teacher] needs to get out of here…It stresses me out. I’m shocked.” The gym teacher’s state-appointed arbitrator disagreed, calling his client a “valuable asset to the school.”
“Short of a sex-crime conviction, anything goes, thanks to notorious section 3020(a) of the state education law,” concluded the Daily News in a separate editorial. “The statute says that teachers may be fired only for just cause — which would be reasonable, except that arbitrators find that only the most extreme behavior provides just cause.”
Sex abuse complaints have increased 35 percent in the past year alone. “If I had my way, these teachers would no longer be in the classroom,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. He urged “common-sense reforms” so he could fire teachers guilty of misconduct. Parents like Mrs. Torres can’t wait for politicians to do the right thing.
A Safety Opportunity Scholarship (SOS) program would let parents with a reasonable apprehension for their children’s safety move their children to safer schools now—not years from now or after they’ve become victims. Scholarships could be worth the same amount students’ schools currently receive, and parents could use them at any public, charter, private, or home school setting they prefer.
“Why would arbitrators throw kids to the wolves? Because they make a living deciding such cases — and because they are hired by joint agreement of the Education Department and the UFT. They well know that if they toss teachers out of work, the union will do the same to them,” concludes the Daily News. Under an SOS program the adults could dance with wolves all they wanted—but children would no longer be put at risk.