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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Special Commissioner and Investigations of Tenured Teachers

Does the Special Commissioner of Investigation have the right to obtain sworn testimony from a tenured teacher?

Edflawfaqs Editor Jeff Kaufman

No. Patricia Sabater, a tenured assistant principal and teacher at an elementary school in Brooklyn was asked to provide sworn testimony about sexual harassment and unlawful touching among students by Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon’s office. SCI wanted to determine whether Sabater had failed to act on and report complaints about these allegations.
Sabater and her attorney refused to answer questions under oath asserting the right, under Education Law 3020-a, not be forced to give sworn testimony in a disciplinary hearing. They argued that a pre-hearing sworn statement was barred.
The SCI sought a court ordered subpoena to force Sabater’s sworn testimony. Justice Carol E. Huff of New York County Supreme Court denied the application. While it is true that Condon’s office has broad powers to investigate and prosecute cases in the DOE a subpoena cannot be used as a way around the protections of Education Law 3020-a. Huff also rejected Condon’s argument that as an assistant principal Sabater could not use the 3020-a protections holding that the statute did not distinguish among those with tenure.

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