Tag Archives: Teacher Tenure

Teacher Fired For Student Horseplay

Instead of grading papers, teachers should be on the lookout for "oral sex".

A 3rd grade teacher in Tallulah, Louisiana was fired recently for failing to notice two of her students having “oral sex” under a desk during class.

First question: how do two 3rd graders have “oral sex”?

Since the details of what actually took place under that desk have, understandably, not been released, the only things we have to go on are sensationalized news headlines. Children that age usually do not have a concept of “sex”, let alone “oral sex”. They might explore, play doctor and do things that adults consider “inappropriate”. However, whatever is done is done out of curiosity and sheer obliviousness to what we adults consider right and wrong.

Therefore, there should be a great deal of thought before what happened under that desk is construed as “oral sex”. That term connotes a certain intentionality that 3rd graders just do not have.

Second question: why is the teacher on the hook for this?

According to Lisa Wilmore, Superintendent of Madison Parish School District, “We have to make sure we have people in these classrooms who are monitoring our students”. Fair enough. Two 3rd graders are under a desk doing God knows what. What was the context? Notwithstanding all of the issues around calling what 3rd graders do “oral sex”, how many children were in that classroom? What kind of activity was the class doing? Was it a lecture, group work or some sort of individualized instruction? How many years was this teacher on the job? How much training and support did this teacher get from her administrators?

Most importantly, how is firing this teacher going to ensure that people are in the classrooms properly monitoring students, as this superintendent claims is her goal?

Third question: this is what happens in “right to work states”.

I know this is not a question. Louisiana is a “right to work” state, meaning that employers can hire and fire anyone at will, including public employees, without due process or even a reason. This story is really about one thing, and that is a grandstanding superintendent. Lisa Wilmore is trying to win political points by looking like she is cracking down on incompetent teachers, a very popular thing to do in this day and age.

This is yet another argument in favor of teacher “tenure”. For the millionth and one time, “tenure” does not mean a guaranteed job for life. Tenure is merely a civil service protection to ensure that, if a teacher does get fired, it is for a legitimate reason. These protections ensure that teachers can act as advocates for children without fearing retaliation. They also prevent the teaching profession from becoming a patronage position, a supply of jobs that exist to reward supporters, relatives and other political lickspittles. Lastly, as we see from this story, tenure protects teachers from superintendents and municipal leaders who want to score cheap political points by looking all tough. It would have prevented this teacher from Lisa Wilmore’s meat axe.

Tenure does not exist in “right to work” states and it has been eroded away in every other state. Yet, teachers are expected to ensure student success, supervise the actions of every student in oversized classrooms, notice signs of abuse, provide a nurturing environment, be a shoulder to cry on and essentially play the role of parent, counselor and disciplinarian. All of this while we get bashed in the media, work under outdated contracts and generally are expected to do more with fewer resources.

At the very least, some sort of tenure process in this case of “oral sex” would have generated discussion over the legitimacy of calling anything 8-year-olds do by such a term. Decency and accuracy in the media are sacrificed for the sake of running a salacious headline. They know it works. This is the same media that professed outrage over Bill Clinton’s affair while at the same time providing every last detail. People got on their Puritanical high horses after reading each sordid fact in rapt attention.

If, in fact, two 3rd graders were having “oral sex” under a classroom table, with all of the intentionality that this term connotes, how is the blame not squarely on the shoulders of the parents of these children? What is going on in these children’s homes that they know of such things? How are their parents being held accountable in any way?

When we grow up as a nation, we might actually see that teachers can only work with the children who sit in front of them. Those children are raised not only by their parents, but the communities in which they live and the media to which they are exposed. With headlines like these, is it any wonder that 8-year-olds are doing what they claim they are doing?

Before getting self-righteous over “incompetent” teachers, remember the words from scripture:

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Public 3020a Hearing Coming Soon

For those that do not know, 3020a is the process that teachers in New York City must go through when facing termination. Some teachers choose to make them private and others opt for a public hearing.

Although I cannot yet reveal specific details, this case revolves around a Facebook post. The short story is that the charges are highly frivolous, much more frivolous than the case of Christine Rubino. Rubino was terminated at 3020a and spent two years getting that termination overturned by a real court.

Anyone who has the time should stop by. It promises to be a glimpse into the sordid, twisted and paranoid world of the harassment of teachers in the age of education reform. As the case shapes up, there will be more specific information on what evidence will be admitted on which dates.

Check the sidebar of this blog for updates on important dates and times related to this case.

Address: 49-51 Chambers Street in Manhattan

Start Dates: April 4th and 5th, 2012

Start Time: Usually 10 am

16 Reasons To Fire Mr. Hand

Front page New York Post photo of the evil Mr. Hand.

I’m not much of  a movie buff but I do have my favorites. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of them. Although considered risque for its time due to its portrayal of teenage sex and drug use (not to mention the bare-chested Phoebe Cates scene), it is pretty tame by today’s standards.

My favorite character is Mr. Hand the history teacher, played by Ray Walston. He runs a tight ship.

Imagine if Mr. Hand was teaching in Bloomberg’s DOE.

He is too much of a veteran and too overpaid. His principal, who is half his age with 3 years of teaching experience, needs to trump up some bogus charges in order to terminate his license.

How many things can you twist out of context in order to terminate Mr. Hand?

1) Locked his classroom doors,  fire hazard.

2) Grabbed hat off student’s head, assault.

3) Snatched cigarette out of student’s mouth, assault.

4) Took candy bar from student’s hand, assault.

5) Hovered over young girl’s desk and talked about coming to her house, sexual harassment.

6) Sarcastic towards Sean Penn by saying “I get so lonely when all my students aren’t here.”, verbal abuse.

7) Ripped up Sean Penn’s schedule in order to cause him mental anguish.

8) Revealed students’ test grades in front of class, causing them all mental anguish.

9) Mistakenly said that Platt Amendment was an amendment to “our constitution” when, in fact, it was an amendment to Cuba’s constitution, incompetence. (We know the DOE strives for accuracy in teaching).

10) Lectured class about truancy, verbal abuse.

11) Menacingly waves his finger at Sean Penn saying “food will be eaten on your time.”, assault.

12) Wrote “I don’t know” on the board in order to cause Sean Penn mental anguish.

13) Said Spain had a “disorganized Parliament”, racist speech.

14) Oh my God, did he say “what in the hell is going on here?”

15) Took Sean Penn’s pizza, unlawful confiscation.

16) Encouraged students to eat pizza, promoting bad health. (We know Bloomberg is serious about our health.)

Mr. Hand was called into a meeting with the principal and his chapter leader regarding certain accusations. These accusations were never specified but, for the good of the students, he was reassigned to Tweed pending investigation by OSI.

After Mr. Hand left the office, the principal immediately got on the phone to “legal” and said he wanted Mr. Hand terminated. Legal then coached him in exactly how to write up the accusations to make them sound as horrible as possible.

Both the principal and OSI wrote reports alleging that Mr. Hand “physically and verbally assaulted several students”, “had inappropriate sexual contact with a teenaged girl”, “locked his students in a classroom creating a safety hazard”, “partook in hate speech” and “demonstrated gross incompetence”.

He is awaiting a 3020a hearing that will drag on for several months and years in the hopes that he will just quit. The arbitrator assigned to the case knows that the principal wants him terminated, so he will do his best to oblige.

Meanwhile, the NY Post is set to run a headline tomorrow morning “Worst Teacher in the City”, with a huge picture of Mr. Hand. The tagline will read “racist pedophile harasser collects salary while on suspension.”

The internet version of the story will have 50 comments underneath from readers bemoaning “tenure”, “lazy teachers” and “pedophiles”. There will be lots of righteous outrage, like “why does he still get to collect his big fat salary?!” and “I have to produce in order to keep my job, why do teachers get to have tenure?!”

Sound far-fetched?

There are hundreds if not thousands of teachers in Mr. Hand’s position all over the city.

The Myth of Tenure: A Discussion with Education Lawyers

How most people view teacher tenure.

I came across this video a while ago about the 3020a process here in NYC. This is the process that a teacher accused of wrongdoing has to go through that decides whether or not they keep their license.

Among the members of this discussion is Betsy Combier who runs the NYC Rubber Room Reporter blog that can be found on my blogroll.

I found myself paying particular attention to Michael Mazzariello (Judge Mazz of Street Court), who was a former prosecutor for the old Board of Education.

This means he was the guy that went after teacher licenses. Not only that, he did his work back in those days when tenure supposedly meant a job for life. Listen to what this man says and how easy it was for him to remove incompetent teachers. He is rational and makes perfect sense in this discussion.

They all bring up interesting points about the pros and cons about the teacher termination process. Much has changed about 3020a since this discussion took place but it is still relevant.

Tenure means a guaranteed job? No. It means due process. While there were always problems with it, the answer is not to get rid of it.