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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Stellar, Dedicated Teacher Eileen Ghastin Fights the Arbitrator's Decision To Suspend Her For Four Weeks After Almost Being Beaten Up in Her Class

Eileen Ghastin
Eileen Ghastin is everything you would want in a teacher. She is knowledgeable about her subject, knows how to teach it (English), and cares deeply about the learning and success of her students. So many students love her and respect her. See the letter from a former student:

From: N B
To: Jennifer Hogan <>
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2017 00:02:32 +0000
Subject: RE: Eileen Ghastin
I just had a conversation with my mother and she gave me her permission to testify. If you'd like to confirm with her, her number is                . My address is                       . Ms.Ghastin is the best teacher I have ever come across within my entire academic career. Not only did she help me reach my full academic potential, she also is one of the most understanding teachers I know. After discussing with her, how I had trouble being organized because of the difficulty in my home life, she personally bought me an organizer in which i used the rest of the year. Going out of her way for me, i will never forget that kindness. I also witnessed it with my fellow students because she would personally invest her time into helping those who needed it most. She is a devoted, kind and caring teacher. Not only did we focus on the academic lessons in the classroom but enriching life lessons. Ms. Ghastin all around is a truly one of a kind teacher because i have never encountered someone as invested, dedicated and devoted to her career and her students, in whom she treated with respect as if they were her own children." 

And yet it took just one student and one bad principal to end everything.

Eileen's school, Flushing High School is a Renewal School, a place where students who did not get any of their other choices for High School, attend. It is a place where no one is safe, there are no consequences for anything anyone does, and discipline doesn't get in the way of ignoring anyone's misconduct.

At her 3020-a Student "D" testified:

"A. Overall, I would say I enjoyed my
20 experience. But it wasn't the best place to be.
21 Like, there were times I was kind of scared to walk
22 down the hallways. There were times where, like, I
23 would witness fights and drug deals going on. It
24 was, it was a really frightening environment....

I felt unsafe".

He testified that

" There are some teachers where you accidentally call
4 "mom". Like, we all have that one teacher where we
5 feel safe around them, where we feel the need that we
6 can express ourselves freely. Ms. Ghastin provided,
7 like, a really safe environment, a really free
8 environment, where I was able to just, like, talk--
9 like, it could be any--anything about the curriculum,
10 or basic life lessons in themselves. Like, for
11 example, we were doing Uncle Tom's Cabin, and we were
12 relating things to modern day racism. And we were
13 able to voice our opinions on as to how we felt about
14 the book, about, like, modern day experiences, about
15 everything. We didn't feel like we were restricted
16 in any way

He transferred out.

Principal Tyee Chin has been in the NYPOST recently, accused of fraudulently raising graduation rates. Flushing HS is a school dying for lack of good leadership and without any possibility of providing a safe environment for students.

But Eileen took on the challenges, and rose above them. She has been teaching for 19 years, starting at Flushing HS in 2011, and has earned a stellar rating every year, despite extremely insulting comments coming from the students at Flushing. Statements like
 "Suck my dick," was something frequently used by the students, and: "Shut the fuck up. What is wrong with you?....".

 "...there was another incident in another class where a girl threatened to bring in a gun to shoot me and to shoot up the building"

Eileen wrote up all the incidents and reported them. Nothing ever came of  that. But on May 16, 2016, Eileen's life changed forever. On that day, a student came in late, and was disrupting the class. He did not want to listen to her asking him to settle down. In fact, he starting verbally abusing her and calling her a "bitch". Eileen testified that:

"And at, at this point, he kind of like swatted at me. And unfortunately, I became very upset. I said, "Student "A"," I, I did yell.  I said, "Move fast. Move, now." And he just got very upset. You know, he is like, "Who the fuck are you talking to?" And then again I said, "Look," you know, I got upset.
I said, "You know that you cannot yes "fucking" to me. You just can't say "fucking" to a teacher. 
You are aware of that. Aren't you aware of that?" And he--that got him even more angry. So he kind of pushed away from his desk. And he says, "I will beat you with this." And he had a cast on his arm. 
As soon as I heard that, I said, "Oh my god, this is getting way out of control." I walked over to the phone to dial a dean....
The teen then “went berserk,” Ghastin said. “He jumped out of his chair, rushed toward me and raised his arm,” encased in a hard cast from elbow to hand.
“I’m going to beat the s–t out of you,” Ghastin quoted him as yelling. “I’m a boxer, so I can ­really f–k you up. "I am really going to do a lot of damage."

Eileen was frozen with fear that she was really going to be hurt. And then, she said, " I thought to myself, I have to say something quickly or else I am going to die. --you know. So, I realized, you know, that he is in a very--a blind rage. If I say something strong enough to him, he will stop.
I said, "If you beat me, I will kill you." 

This statement stopped him.

Eileen said, " Because he stopped. He was like, he kind of stopped, and paused, like, I don't know, like somehow I, I made him aware of what is going on. You know, he was just like stopped, turn around, started saying something about me being an old bitch. Grabbed his stuff, and then walked out."

Eileen apologized to the students still sitting in the room, and told them that it was time to move on, to prepare for the Regents and final exams. So that's what they did. Later, Eileen wrote a statement and the rest is history.

Eileen was charged with 3020-a charges, for verbal abuse,  failure to perform her duties by engaging in conduct unbecoming her position, misconduct, inappropriate comments, and conduct that rendered her unfit to perform her obligations to the service.  She was represented by NYSUT Attorney Jennifer Hogan. The Department was represented by Kareen Evans-McKay.

The DOE also came up with the Specification below, but did not serve it on Eileen, so it could not be used:

Dont you love it? The DOE HATES press coverage they do not control.

Below are excerpts from Arbitrator Williams' shocking opinion and punishment:

"On the instant facts. Respondent's tone and largely responsive comments and language on May 17, 2016, provoked and instigated an escalation of student agitation and conflict; directed extremely disrespectful behavior at a student that served to increase the student's own misguided bravado; all in front of a classroom of impressionable ninth grade students. During the incident, the exchanges of profanity were topped off with Respondent uttering a death threat to the student, "If you beat me, I will kill you."  The language exchanged fell squarely within the parameters of the definitions of prohibited conduct under the Chancellor's Regulations. 

The Respondent's language was belittling; embarrassing; substantially interfered with a student's ability to benefit in the class and education program; interfered with a student's mental and emotional wellbeing; and reasonably could cause a student to fear for their physical safety and could reasonably be expected to cause physical injury. The violation of Chancellors .Regulation A-421 was clearly established.

The proven conduct also evidenced Respondent's unprofessionalism, extremely poor judgment, lack of control, lack of restraint, impulsiveness, and unwillingness to accept the demands of her position. The verbal exchanges that happened were not only unnecessary but the circumstances at issue could have easily escalated into a physical confrontation had student CF not exited the room.
Simply put, Respondent could have mitigated the situation and avoided provocation by not engaging in a verbal power struggle with a child. Respondent's role as a pedagogue is to set a positive example. Respondent failed to heed the often-quoted sentiment of former First Lady Michelle Obama "When they go low, we go high." Teachers, of necessity, are expected to "take the high road" and not lower their standards in student interactions. ......

 Respondent is reminded that it is a privilege to be entrusted with educating students who attend DOE schools. Her privileged role as a teacher carries many dimensions including the modeling of appropriate behaviors to respond to stressful situations. The use of profanity in connection with the normal give and take between a teacher and students; the use of profanity by a teacher in making routine student requests; and the use of profanity in giving directives and feedback to students will not be tolerated. It is the sole responsibility of Respondent to control the use of her language and she failed on May 7, 2016."

In sum, I find the appropriate penalty in this matter to be a four-week suspension without pay penalty; two weeks for the use of profanity during an interaction with a student plus two weeks for the issuance of a verbal death threat to a student. Respondent's future is in her own hands and this is a Final Warning that additional deficiencies of a similar nature warrant termination from employment."  

This decision is so outrageous. Where is the respect and concern for Eileen? Immediately after Eileen received the decision of Arbitrator Richard Williams in her 3020-a, Eileen asked for assistance from ADVOCATZ in filing an Article 75 Appeal to vacate the four weeks' suspension she received as punishment for stopping an out of control boy from permanently destroying her health and possibly worse.

The Department's policy of charging teachers for student misconduct must stop. the DOE and the police work together on this, where students are allowed to do whatever they please because the DOE is afraid of a parent filing a lawsuit to defend their little angels. The police liaisons need the support of the principal to keep their jobs, so the mantra is, if someone comes in and wants to file a complaint at their school, don't take it.

If you touch a student at all in order to stop them, you will be charged with corporal punishment. If you say to the potential assailant "stop, you better not come any closer", you will be charged with verbal abuse. How? Because faster than a speeding bullet the student in the class will report the incident to a nearby adult. No matter who this person is - AP, safety agent, guidance counselor.

Chancellor's Regulation A-421 was the basis for the Specifications, or charges, against Eileen Ghastin. When you read A-421, you can see that everything described is against the teacher or employee. None of the actions that may have caused the employee to act in such a way as to be charged with corporal punishment is described. There is mention of the Discipline Code, but the actions of students remains up to your imagination. The DOE does this for a reason. They want to use the Regulations any way that they want, with the goal to get rid of the teacher and protect the student, no matter what they did. Thus, the DOE can, and does, make up actions of the educator and feelings of the student. They can, and do, make up some pretty wild stuff.

I remember a case a few years ago where the charge was that a teacher, while handing out a test to a student who usually fails  got a great grade,  briefly touched her shoulder to get her attention, then said, "Good job!"

The next thing that happened was the teacher was charged with sexual harassment, and standing above the student while handing out the test so that he could look down her blouse. The girl came in and cried, right on cue. She followed the script.

I'm not kidding. He won his case, however, basically because he is a great guy, but also because the OSI investigator came in and testified that touching someone on the shoulder is not corporal punishment.

The DOE attorneys have a heavy burden at 3020-a: they must make a big enough wad of filth and false evidence so that when it is thrown against a wall, like at the 3020-a hearing, something sticks.

Public Schools in New York City are in chaos right now due to the unfortunate DOE policy of  keeping "Hands Off The Kids!" This policy means that if a child or young adult is coming to you to beat you up, you cannot do anything. You must allow yourself to be beaten up.

We are pulling all stops from this Appeal, in order to fight the random and arbitrary inability of the DOE to control gangs and bad kids in our NYC public schools. This is a detriment to all, and must be changed.

Arbitrator Williams made an error here, an error which must be corrected with all charges removed from Eileen's file and any monetary losses should be reimbursed plus a monetary award to repair Eileen's damaged soul. She needs to be back in a classroom. Now.

It is indeed shocking to me how our public administrators put money and stupid policies over educational excellence. This must stop.

Teacher Quit Letters Point To A Broken System

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials


Anonymous said...

This stuff is happening all over the city and it happened to me. End mayoral control now.

K Perez said...

Anonymous said...

FariƱa and Mulgrew have created an anti-teacher culture, but their inactions are goih to backfire.

Kimling said...

I’m currently in resigned waiting my hearing for 3030A because of principal and assistant principal retaliation and fake allegations. The system needs to be looked into and fix. The majority of the teachers removed from classes is from low income schools that service black and brown students. The federal government needs to step in and review this policy