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Saturday, December 27, 2008

The UFT Wins Letter in File Lawsuits

The UFT sued the DOE for disciplining three teachers from PS 345 in Brooklyn who were given letters in their files without going through the 3020a process. NY Teacher reports:

Union wins letter-in-file suits
Jan 17, 2008 6:14 PM

Three State Supreme Court judges have ruled that the New York City Department of Education cannot place purely disciplinary letters in educators’ files without providing them the due process required by Article 3020a of the state Education Law.

The ruling involved teachers Daphna Gutman, Joyce Sticco, Evelyn Carillo and Darlene Jones Hardwick, all of whom teach at PS 345 in Brooklyn. When a fellow teacher at the school was investigated for possible improper acts involving students, each of the four teachers willingly cooperated with investigators from the office of Special Commissioner for Investigations Richard Condon. One even reached out on her own to contact the office when she learned of the investigation.

The four teachers told investigators they did not think that any of the acts that SCI later used as the bases of charges were improper.

When the SCI issued its report months later, it called not only for termination of the teacher under investigation but also for disciplinary action against each of the four teachers, alleging that they failed to report improper conduct. The principal met with each teacher and placed letters in their files reprimanding them.

The outraged teachers and their colleagues at the school asked the UFT to try to clear their names. The union went to court and sued the DOE for disciplining the teachers without going through the 3020a process. Their cases were separate and three judges heard them.

All three judges ruled that the DOE had to remove the letters from the file because they were purely disciplinary and did not recommend a change in behavior, did not threaten future discipline and were not simply observation reports. Because they were purely disciplinary in nature, the judges ruled that they could not be placed in the teachers’ files without following 3020a procedures.

The DOE has appealed the rulings.

“This ruling is a great victory for our members because it protects them from the arbitrary and capricious whims of autocratic administrators who would make educators scapegoats,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s one thing to try to hold people accountable, but our members cooperated fully with investigators and did exactly what they were supposed to do. This ruling tells principals that they have to adhere to a process and follow the rules before attempting to assign blame and punish educators.”

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