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Monday, February 20, 2012

Raqnel James Wins Her Case

Raqnel James won a just verdict, but when will real justice come?

Three years ago Fordham HS for the Arts principal Iris Blige had Raqnel arrested, paraded of out school in handcuffs, for threatening the principal. But the threatening letter, no one ever saw anyone aside from Blige with the letter in their possession. And today a judge, in finding Raqnel not guilty, agreed with her supporters and did not believe that Raqnel wrote it.
At the time, Lynne Winderbaum, United Federation of Teachers District Rep for Bronx High Schools (and one hell of an ESL teacher) organized a protest in front of the school. Four hundred teachers from dozens of schools showed up in support. Raqnel was not Iris Blige’s first victim – she fits the profile of an abusive administrator. How many teachers did she rubber room? U rate?  And those U ratings?  A year ago OSI found that she had inappropriately ordered APs to U teachers, sight unseen (and as a result was fined the equivalent of a car payment, for a year and a half). But having a teacher led out in handcuffs, threatened with deportation, enough was enough and chapter leaders and activists rallied loudly.
The charge was preposterous, and rightly rejected. But the charge was viciously and maliciously calculated – Raqnel is from Jamaica, an international teacher, and “due process” is not equally due all of us. She has been out of school for three years. She fought deportation; she fought criminal charges; she fought two dozen postponements.
The reward is sweet. Not guilty. It sounds that good. And another reward is putting her accuser on the stand, for none to believe.
But those bills. Those lost years. The mental anguish.
We have a just verdict. Now we need justice.

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