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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Rise in Complaints Against School Employees (That Means Principals, Too) Is Due To Social Media

When Carl (Campanile, NYPOST) called, I told him what I thought about the rise in complaints against school employees: secret recordings and social media.

New York State is a one party state. This means that as long as you are in a conversation with someone, you can secretly record the discussion and you do not have to tell the person/people with whom you are speaking that you are recording. You should assume that whenever anyone speaks with you at your school, especially in an office such as a Principal or AP, you are being recorded. Return the favor. Tape every meeting secretly and be creative.

I remember a teacher who recorded everyone, and the principal thought she was doing it, so whenever she entered the principal's office, she was given a pat down. So she kept the tape recorder in her bra or her sock.

You cannot secretly record any conversation in which you are not a party. Take a look also at the penal code for eavesdropping. You can, and should be documenting everything said to you, for your records. And remember that you are also legally allowed to secretly tape telephone calls in which you are a party.

Now that the cell phone ban is ending for all public school students, there will be more chances for a hidden tape recorder/phone to get an educator/principal/AP/Dean/etc saying something that is harassing, improper, or criminal.

If you look at the cell phone ban for a minute, consider this: the schools with high-scoring kids (NEST+M, La Guardia, Stuyvesant) never told students they could not bring their phones to school. Students were told  "don't have anyone see your phone in class, keep it in your backpack/bag". I know, because my daughters always had their phones with them, and went to those schools. My oldest daughter was a student at Stuyvesant on 9/11. There was no way I would let her on the subway or at school without her cellphone.

On the other side of the coin are the schools where the demographics are very different. Take Wadleigh HS on West 114th Street in Manhattan. Harlem. Parents told me that when the phone scanner officers were stationed at the door, parents and students - mostly African-American - were body searched. Who decides?

My  thoughts about why the cell phone ban was put in place was not to protect the learning experience but to guard against student exposure of employee misconduct.

Let's see what happens now that students throughout the city will be able to carry their phones inside the school building.

Betsy Combier

Probes into NYC teachers decrease, despite record complaints

Investigators were flooded with a record number of complaints against school employees last year — but pursued fewer cases against them, records show.
Investigators received 5,287 complaints in 2014, according to a report released Thursday by Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon.
But his office completed only 714 investigations, 123 fewer than last year, when there were 4,335 complaints.
Regina Romain, a spokeswoman for Condon, said many of the complaints were frivolous or did not fall under his purview.
“We do not have any control over the amount of complainants that call our office,” she said.
“We open investigations based on the severity of the allegations. Although the amount of complaints may increase, the allegations may not be as serious.”
One advocate who helps defend teachers in disciplinary cases attributed the complaint surge to an explosion in the use of high-tech gadgets and social media.
“Everybody is carrying around a tape recorder” in the form of a smartphone, said legal aide Betsy Combier. “People know they can secretly tape. It’s a social-media thing.”
If anything, she said, the number of complaints will continue to go up because “now students will be allowed to carry their phones in school.”
One Brooklyn principal said it has become easier to file complaints through the 311 hot line.
“Administrators are being called in and hearing, ‘We got a 311 complaint,’ ” said Dakota Keyes, principal of PS 272 in Canarsie.
She said the situation is frustrating because many of the accusations are unfounded.
Keyes recalled one incident in which her students held fund-raisers for a classmate who was hospitalized.
When she delivered the money to the student’s parents in front of numerous eyewitnesses, someone complained.
“There was a 311 call saying the funds were not used for what was intended,” said Keyes.
“It’s annoying. Sometimes the complaints are mean-spirited.”
Investigators discovered evidence of sexual misconduct in 52 out of 581 complaints received that had a sexual component.
The cases included an after-school aide in PS 300 in The Bronx who allegedly abused two 8-year-old female students; Brooklyn Tech teacher Sean Shaynak’s alleged relations with seven girls in his classes; and a school investigator who sext-messaged a teacher he was investigating.
Few cases resulted in dismissals.
Condon recommended that the city fire only 63 school employees and never rehire 115 others who left on their own.

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