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Monday, August 6, 2018

At the NYC DOE Sex Harassment and/or Discrimination Cases Are Not Being Investigated

Is there a coverup? Many people are asking.

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

Education Department officials have probed fewer cases of sexual harassment and discrimination in city schools under the de Blasio administration, even as the agency’s number of employees has ballooned.

The sex-probe stats were released as Mayor de Blasio faces growing criticism over the city’s commitment — and transparency — in addressing the issue.

In 2017, investigators concluded just 69 probes of sexual harassment and harassment in the schools. That’s down from 101 cases in 2015, and 98 cases in 2014, which was de Blasio’s first year in office.
Meanwhile, over that same time period, the number of staffers in the city schools grew to 144,077 in 2017 from 134,044 in 2014.

Critics say those numbers don’t add up.

“The public should not be fooled by the city’s statistics,” said prominent victims’ rights lawyer Carrie Goldberg, who’s litigating a number of sexual misconduct suits against the school system.

“For a workforce of this size and the culture being what it is, we can safely conclude somebody is underreporting,” Goldberg added. “There’s a serious coverup.”

Goldberg said that in four cases she litigated against the city, administrators failed to even invoke sexual harassment procedures, including a suit she brought on behalf of a Brooklyn teen with disabilities who reported that she was raped in a school stairwell.

The city paid $950,000 to settle that student’s suit June 14.

Education Department officials won’t say how many of the 338 sex harassment and discrimination cases closed by the agency between 2014 and 2017 resulted in disciplinary action against school employees. The city has taken heat for its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct among city school staffers, prompting de Blasio to promise to hire more investigators to probe the cases. As of April, 133 active cases of sex harassment and discrimination were being handled by department investigators. De Blasio vowed to double their numbers in May, adding 11 more investigators as soon as July with a $5 million investment built into the 2019 city budget. So far none have been hired, and the latest estimate is that new staff will be hired with the beginning of the new school year in September.

Figures released by the de Blasio administration on April 20 identified 471 cases of sexual harassment complaints in city schools from 2013 to 2017.

But education records showed 590 complaints during the same period — a number about 25% higher than the figure reported by de Blasio.

Five days later de Blasio said he didn’t believe all the complaints, telling reporters that “a hyper complaint dynamic” in the city schools drove a high number of sexual harassment reports.
He walked back the assertion hours later, tweeting that “every single person who has the courage to come forward with a sexual harassment complaint deserves to be believed.”

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who was de Blasio’s second choice for the job, has had his own brush with the hot-button issue.

His actions were at the center of a $75,000 sex discrimination settlement in his previous district of San Francisco in 2016. The suit accused Carranza of ruining the career of a San Francisco educator after she called him out for flirting at a work conference.

Carranza has denied the charges in the suit, and de Blasio has said he doesn’t believe the claims.
Education spokesman Douglas Cohen said the city is thoroughly probing all complaints of sexual harassment.

“There’s no place for sexual harassment of any kind at the DOE, and we have strict protocols in place to ensure all complaints are thoroughly investigated and swiftly addressed,” Cohen said.

“We’re hiring new investigators this month to ensure investigations are conducted in a timely manner, and encourage all employees to come forward with any complaint as we remain vigilant in holding those who are involved in misconduct accountable.”

Paterson N.J. Schools Abolish ‘Rubber Rooms’ For Teachers

Yes, there are rubber rooms outside of New York City.

Betsy Combier

Paterson Schools Ready to Abolish ‘Rubber Room’ For Teachers Under Investigation
Joe Malinconico, Paterson Press, Aug. 3, 2018

PATERSON — The city school district is abolishing its infamous "rubber room" — the place at Board of Education headquarters where teachers and principals facing allegations of wrongdoing were assigned until their cases are resolved.

Going forward, the district plans to put educators accused of any type of misconduct on paid administrative leave, said Assistant Superintendent Luis Rojas. That approach would let the accused stay at home on workdays rather than report to district headquarters, where they would sit around and do nothing, officials said.

Normally, no more than five district employees have been assigned to the rubber room at any one time, Rojas said.

“It’s a place where people go to get paid for not doing a job, so I’m happy they're abolishing it,” said Rosie Grant, head of the Paterson Education Fund advocacy group.

City Hall: Ex-Paterson mayor got pension and salary, plus an extra $40K for vacation day

Settlement: Accused Paterson teacher resigns in deal ending district’s attempt to fire him

Grace Giglio, head of the union that represents Paterson principals, said investigations of employees sometimes dragged on for too long under the rubber room arrangement.

“I believe this will speed investigations along,” Giglio said of the abolishment of the rubber room. She said the district would not want to give accused employees what would look like paid vacations.

Oshin Castillo

Board of Education President Oshin Castillo offered a similar take on the situation. “It wasn’t fair to the employees,” Castillo said of the prolonged rubber room assignments. “This pushes the district to do the investigation as soon as possible.”

The rubber room practice has been involved in several lawsuits filed by district employees over the years. Principal Paula Santana sued the district more than five years ago complaining that her rubber room assignment came with “no duties or functions.”

Santana, who had cancer, died before that case was resolved.

Former teacher Noreen Sweeney claimed in a lawsuit she filed in 2016 that she was assigned to the rubber room for almost two years.

John McEntee Jr., head of the union that represents Paterson teachers, did not respond to a message seeking his comments for this story.

Rojas said the practice of assigning educators to the rubber room had come “with a stigma that we are trying to avoid, especially when an employee is exonerated from the allegation.”

The Paterson school board took a preliminary vote on the policy Wednesday night. The final vote is scheduled for Aug. 29.