Monday, October 13, 2014

Tweed Selectively Enforces Contract and Enables Teacher Bashing

In the Daily News today there's a story about a teacher who lost his job. That in itself is interesting, since renowned legal expert Campbell Brown asserts it never happens. Also interesting is the fact that what this teacher is accused of appears far worse than the few cases Brown is constantly blathering about.

It seems reasonable that the story recalls the recent case of the Brooklyn Tech teacher who's sitting in jail right now. But I'm a little surprised by the concluding sentence of the story, which involves the Brooklyn teacher rather than the story's ostensible subject:

 Education officials have acknowledged it could take up to a month to fire him — and he’ll continue to collect city checks in the meantime.

There's not really any good reason for that. First of all, assuming the teacher is guilty of the charges, he's not in a classroom, and that ought to be what's important. Second, I'm pretty surprised that no one has sought to find out how anyone guilty of such charges could get a job in the first place, let alone maintain it. Most notably, no one has bothered to point out that there's no reason whatsoever for this teacher to be drawing pay. Here's an excerpt from Article 21 of the UFT Contract:

The parties agree that certain types of alleged misconduct are so serious that the employee should be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary process. Serious misconduct shall be defined as actions that would constitute:

  • the felony sale, possession, or use of marijuana, a controlled substance, or a precursor of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia as defined in Article 220 or 221 of the Penal Law, or
  • any crime involving physical abuse of a minor or student (crimes involving sexual abuse of a minor or student are addressed in paragraph 6 below.),...
Given that, why on earth has the DOE not acted upon it? A reliable source tells me that Tweed says this does not apply to untenured teachers. It's ridiculous to assert that contractual clauses do not apply to untenured teachers. If the city chooses not to exercise its contractual rights, it ought not to assert contractual issues that restrict them.

I'm tired of stories framing the contract as a culprit, particularly when they suggest things that are patently untrue. I remember this clause of the contract, and I remember objecting to it. Basically, we're talking about charges which are as yet unproven. In America, at least theoretically, you are innocent until proven guilty. Being suspended without pay or health benefits based on unsubstantiated charges is not reasonable, in my opinion. I believe there was at least one Queens teacher who was suspended on false charges a few years back.

However, they can't have it both ways. If they city and media wish to complain about the contract, they can't blame us when they, through ignorance, incompetence, or simple malice toward working people, choose not to use it.
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