Push to crackdown on New York City teachers in sexual misconduct cases

October 2, 2013 1:47:08 PM PDT
There is a new push to get tough on New York City school employees, including teachers, who are accused of sexual misconduct.

One group says the system is dysfunctional and the accused are given a free pass.

Campbell Brown, co-founder of the Parents Transparency Project, feels the system is broken when it comes to handling adult sexual misconduct in schools.

"In the last 7 years, 128 cases of sexual misconduct have been brought before arbitrators. Only 33 of those teachers have been fired," said Brown.

At Belmont Preparatory High School in the Bronx, a male teacher was found to have made sexually offensive comments to female students. He was allowed back to work after a brief suspension and sensitivity training.

"It makes me feel uncomfortable. It's kind of a disrespect," said student Jeslenee Gutierrez.

Non-criminal cases against school staff members are heard by arbitrators, as part of the city's contract with the teachers union.

"What's happening is, you have case after case where these arbitrators are deciding that, yes, what the school employee did was wrong and they are, in fact, guilty, but they're giving them a very light sentence," said Brown.

As part of a statement to Eyewitness News, the United Federation of Teachers says, "Teachers are entitled to a hearing before an independent arbitrator by state law, not the UFT contract; it is the UFT contract that permits immediate removal from the classroom and automatic termination if found guilty of sexual misconduct."

The Parents Transparency Project is very concerned about what it calls a gray area for judging cases of sexual misconduct among school staffers.

"I'm talking about teachers that are engaging in sexual banter with children, and in some cases, inappropriate touching and these arbitrators are letting them off the hook," said Brown.

The Department of Education last year proposed a state law that would allow the city schools chancellor to have the final say on cases of misconduct. The proposal is still pending. Otherwise, any changes would have to come in a new teachers union contract, to be negotiated by the next mayor.

PARENTS TRANSPARENCY PROJECT: http://www.parentstransparency.org/