New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed new legislation that would give local school districts or the chancellor—as opposed to hearing officers—the final say on whether a teacher accused of sexual misconduct is fired, according to a press release.
Under the current law, outside hearing officers decide on the cases and impose binding penalties. A statement from the mayor’s office, however, claims that the law has prevented the Department of Education from terminating teachers, even after an outside investigator concluded there had been inappropriate sexual conduct. The mayor’s press release provides an example:
[T]he Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) found one teacher inappropriately touched a number of female students' buttocks, breasts, waists, stomachs and necks. The Department of Education filed charges to dismiss the individual—the second such attempt. However, the hearing officer determined that the individual hugged one student and hugged and tickled another on her waist, dismissing or withdrawing all other charges. The hearing officer imposed only a 45-day paid suspension and then permitted the teacher to return to the classroom.
The new law would allow districts to review a hearing officer’s decision and make the final determination about what disciplinary action to take.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, responded to the proposed changes in a press release, stating that the union’s contract “already includes the toughest penalty in the state—automatic termination—for any teacher found guilty of this offense.” Further, Mulgrew said, “this proposed legislation would allow the chancellor to unilaterally find an employee guilty of sexual misconduct even though an independent hearing officer who has weighed all the evidence has determined otherwise.”
It’s a shameful reality that these kinds of cases even come up, but they do and, as anyone reading teacher news daily knows, quite often. We’ll keep you posted on where all of this goes.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.