'Inappropriate' teachers allowed to return to classroom
New York school employees accused of sexual misconduct with students could be fired regardless of what hearing officers decide, under a law proposed today by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg railed this afternoon against a law that allows teachers found guilty of inappropriate relationships back in the classroom, teaching.
And the city can do nothing about it, he said.
The mayor proposed state legislation today that would allow Chancellor Dennis Walcott to decide whether to fire a teacher found to have inappropriate behavior with a student.
Right now, teachers suspected of conduct that may be inappropriate, but does not warrant criminal charges — for example, a teacher accused of hugging a student, or taking a 15-year-old student to a movie — have a hearing with an outside officer, approved by both the Department of Education and the city's teacher's union.
That officer then decides whether the teacher is guilty. But the punishment is often not harsh enough, Bloomberg said.
In some cases, he said, teachers found to have inappropriate relationships are fined and allowed to return teaching.
"It's dangerous, it is indefensible," Bloomberg said. "How can we as adults let that teacher go back into the classroom?"
For example, the DOE tried to fire a teacher who was accused of inappropriately touching female students' buttocks, breasts and waists, according to Bloomberg. But the hearing officer determined that the teacher only hugged and tickled students, dismissing the other charges and imposing a 45-day paid suspension. After that, the teacher returned to teaching.
Another teacher took a 15-year-old student shopping, to the movies, chatting on the phone and was physically affectionate.
According to Bloomberg, the hearing officer found "an overly personal, ill-advised and unprofessional relationship." The educator was fined $5,000 and allowed back to teach.
In a third case, a teacher told a 17-year-old student, "Baby, when you turn 18 years old, you could come to my home and we can have a real party," according to Bloomberg. Officials tried to fire the teacher, but the hearing officer dismissed all the charges -- except calling the student "baby" -- and imposed a $1,500 fine.
Walcott said he reviewed 200 cases, finding 24 that "raised concerns" and eight that needed a harsher punishment.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the legislation is not the answer and gives Walcott "the power to ignore the evidence."