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Mona Davids and Campbell Brown Throw Sand at Each Other in the Sandbox
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“We Will Not Be
Bullied! Celebrity Campbell Brown Does
Not Represent Us.”
New York City
Parents Union Statement Regarding Campbell Brown's Attempts
Parent-Led Lawsuit Regarding Bad Education Law
DAVIDS V. NEW
YORK: THE FACTS
On July 3, 2014, the lawsuit Davids v. New York was filed by 11 New York City students against the State of New York, the New York State Board of Regents, the New York State Education Department, the City of New York and the New York City Department of Education. An extension of the ongoing efforts by parents to improve the quality of education in New York State, this lawsuit seeks to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions within New York State’s Education Law that deny students the “sound basic education,” considered a fundamental right under Article XI, §1 of the New York State Constitution.
Davids v. New York was filed against the State of New York — not against
teachers or any union — pursuant to this State’s constitutional obligation
to ensure the availability of a sound basic education for all of its
children. Davids is about modernizing the
teaching profession and ensuring that our education system is
performance-based and not quality-blind. Above all, this lawsuit is an affirmation of the
importance of teachers to the quality of students’ education and it is a
challenge for all of us to do things differently to make sure our students
are getting all of the resources they need to succeed. New books and
desks are not enough; there must be a highly motivated, highly effective
teacher in each classroom every day.
Unlike California -- where Vergara v. California challenged that state’s “Last In
First Out” (LIFO) provisions, dismissal provisions and tenure provisions -- we are
challenging only New York’s state’s LIFO and dismissal
statutes. Davids v. New York will force
essential changes in bad law. We are not challenging the tenure
law in New York due to the recent amendments of the law that require school
districts to consider classroom performance as a factor in granting
permanent employment. The fact that New York State now considers
“teacher quality” as a component of its tenure decisions is a critical
distinction when comparing New York’s education laws with California’s.
New York City’s parents chose to take action on behalf of their children
and on their own terms, independent of other organizations and
agendas. During a similar period of time, Ms. Campbell Brown, a media
celebrity involved specifically with anti-union crusades also decided to
pursue legal action. Her case is titled Wright v. New
York. Ms. Brown’s
primary interest was and remains the elimination of tenure for
teachers. The New York City Parents Union’s lawsuit,Davids v. New
announced, filed with the court and served prior to Ms. Brown’s filing of
her lawsuit and the announcement thereof.
On August 7, 2014, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman,
representing all government agency defendants, filed a motion to
consolidate Wright v. New York with Davids v. New York, resulting in a single case.
Mr. Schneiderman also requested that the case be tried in Richmond County
-- the Borough of Staten Island -- and that the consolidated case remain
titled as Davids v. New York. Despite the different focus of Brown’s case,
the Davids plaintiffs agreed to the consolidation and also agreed
to the United Federation of Teachers' motion to intervene on behalf of
their union’s members.
CELEBRITY CAMPBELL BROWN: THE OUTRAGE
In contrast to the Davids plaintiffs spirit
of cooperation, however, celebrity Campbell Brown has engaged in a deliberate
and methodical effort to undermine the strength ofDavids v. New York and
sabotage the efforts of real parents to improve their children’s
education. Ms. Brown has decided that having her name in the
headlines is a top priority and, aided and abetted by others, she has used
the threat of “economic sanctions” in an attempt to reduce financial
support for Davids v. New York and the efforts of the New
York City Parents Union.
On August 14, the NYCPU met with Randy Mastro, Esq., a partner with
the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which was providing legal
representation to the Davids v. New York plaintiffs. At this meeting,
the plaintiffs were advised by Mr. Mastro that Campbell Brown and her
supporters were waging a bullying campaign behind the scenes to undermine
and sabotage Davids v. New York, including the threat of clients leaving Gibson Dunn as
well as threats to funders of Students Matter, an education advocacy
organization that organized the Vergara lawsuit, and threats conveyed to
RALLY, a public relations company working with theDavids plaintiffs. The appalling
extreme and sensitive nature of this situation has led involved parties to
deny the threats and generate creative reasons for changing their
relationships withDavids v. New York.
After refusing to go “on the record” addressing or denying these
allegations to reporters, and only after agreeing to deny our allegations
“off the record,” Ms. Brown finally responded “on the record” in
an email to former California State Senator Gloria Romero, the sponsor of
the California Parent Empowerment Law and also a columnist for the Orange
On August 28, 2014, after learning that Ms. Romero had confirmation of Ms.
Brown's bullying from a credible Students Matter source, Campbell Brown
denied our allegations in an email to Ms. Romero and proceeded to instruct
Gibson Dunn, our attorneys, to respond to Ms. Romero with a statement.
A mere 12 minutes later, Gibson Dunn
-- our law firm with whom we had a retainer agreement – proceeded to
violate attorney-client privilege by following Ms. Brown's instructions and
sending Gloria Romero an email that called our allegations absurd included
a statement that Gibson Dunn would no longer be representing the student
and parent plaintiffs in Davids v. New York. This email and statement was sent
hours before attorney Randy Mastro actually notified us – his
clients -- in a short email that Gibson Dunn would no longer be
CELEBRITY CAMPBELL BROWN: THE VERY INCONVENIENT TRUTH It was beyond disappointing to be confronted by a bully
posing as an ally. In New York City, we say “No” to bullies. As
real parents with our children’s futures on the line, we will not be
bullied! Celebrity Campbell Brown has chosen to use intimidation as
hermodus operandi. Celebrity Campbell Brown’s ego does
not deserve our praise, nor does her obsession with teacher tenure.
Celebrity Campbell Brown does not represent us parents – and she will not
stop our children and us from proceeding with Davids v. New
York. Celebrity Campbell Brown is not the saviour of New
York’s children from low-income families or black and brown children … and
she has no right to represent herself as such when she chooses to use money
and connections to trample on the rights of those children and their
Unlike Ms. Brown's lawsuit, Davids v. New York has been organized by
independent, grassroots parents with a long history of advocating on both a
legislative and judicial level for our children. The parents of the
student plaintiffs are members of the New York City Parents Union, a
parent-led organization dedicated to ensuring that every child receives
equal access to a high-quality and affordable public education. The
New York City Parents Union and its members are also plaintiffs in two
ongoing school funding lawsuits – actions pursued to ensure that New York's
public school children receive all the school funding they are entitled to
under the law per the important Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision.
Through this lawsuit, we seek to create an opportunity for education
stakeholders — students, parents, teachers, legislators, and organized
labor — to create a better review system that elevates teacher quality,
raises the prestige of the teaching profession as a whole, and promotes
access to a sound education for all students.
# # #
2014 Press Conference videos of Davids v. New York parent plaintiffs
speaking out against Campbell Brown's bullying, undermining and attempted
hijacking of our independent, grassroots, parent led lawsuit.
Whoopi Goldberg is the latest celebrity to weigh in on the topic of teacher tenure, fueling what seems to be increasing national attention to the topic.
Her comments appear to be prompted by a lawsuit organized by former news anchorCampbell Brownagainst New York state's tenure and dismissal rules. Fresh off herappearance on "The Colbert Report," Brown has been making the early-morning talk-show rounds. (Not to be outdone, the American Federation of Teachers' Randi Weingarten fought back Tuesday on the MSNBC program "Morning Joe.")
At this rate, teacher tenure may exceed the Common Core State Standards as an education policy lightning rod, even as a possible wedge issue in the midterm and 2016 elections.
One thing's for sure: There's a war out there to win public opinion on the merits, or demerits, of tenure laws. Advocates like Brown are focusing on broad-brush arguments that tenure rules make it too difficult to get rid of poor teachers. Unions, alternatively, posit that tenure protects teachers from reprisals, and that attacks on tenure are really attacks onorganized laborand public education. (The AFT sent back-to-back missives this week urging itsalliesto tweet and post to Facebook stories to that effect.)
Given the conventional wisdom that perception is nine-tenths of the reality in political warfare, this back and forth makes sense. But it's worth taking the time to remember that tenure laws—which prevent teachers from being dismissed without cause, typically established in a hearing—are actually complex, obscure, and context-specific. State legal codes on tenure go on for pages and pages, spelling out in detail such matters as the reasons constituting just cause for firing, the timeline for filing charges and hearing cases, the type of evidence that can be presented at hearings, the appeals process, and so on and so forth.
For cases of dismissal for incompetence, the picture is further complicated bydisagreementsabout what constitutes an effective teacher and how to measure one. And, as with all laws, they can be implemented well or poorly.
My point is that there's a lot here in the weeds to examine. We'll do our best here atEducation Weekto keep you above the fray and understanding these nuances.