NEW YORK – What are parents to do when their child comes home from school with stories about "this creepy guy in my class" – and it turns out to be the teacher?
That’s a very real concern for parents with children in New York City public schools, where 14 teachers of highly dubious character have been reinstated to the classroom – and two others have been given "desk duty" – thanks to appeals by their powerful teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers.
NYDailyNews.com reports that 16 teachers "kept their jobs after being brought up on egregious charges, some sexual, some involving excessive personal familiarity with students."
A few examples:
Gym and health teacher Willie Laraque was charged with bending a male student over a desk, leaning in to him and saying, "I’ll show you what is gay." The Daily News reports Laraque is back in the classroom after paying a $10,000 fine.
Norman Siegel, a high school teacher, was accused of pressing his genitalia against a female student’s leg. Siegel only received a 45-day unpaid suspension, "although the arbitrator found that the girl’s charge was likely true" and that Siegel "was previously accused of a similar offense," the Daily News writes.
There’s also a case involving Edward Cascio, a gym teacher who accepted pornographic pictures from a student – of another student. Cascio was back at work after serving his three-month suspension.
The district tried to fire these individuals, but the UFT appealed the decisions to arbitrators, who gave the teachers their jobs back.
"Why would arbitrators throw kids to the wolves?" asks a Daily News editorial. "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."
The paper is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to have teachers accused of bad behavior to stand before the "Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, where every other civil servant goes for adjudication" and whose "professional administrative judges have no built-in bias against rendering the tough rulings needed to protect kids."
That’s a good start, but education reformers should demand changes to teacher tenure, so district officials don’t have to spend a small fortune in legal fees every time they attempt to remove a perverse educator from the classroom. Given UFT’s influence over New York’s school system, such a bold change might not be possible. But New Yorkers must do everything in their power to protect their students from these teachers – and their union.