Teacher sues over rubber room assignment

November 12, 2009 3:08:31 PM PST
It is certainly an unusual legal move by a teacher that we do not see when they have been accused of wrongdoing. The coach in this case is going to federal court.

"They wanted to have some type of retaliation against me, and they did," Daniel Smith said.

That retaliation, Smith claims, was to assign the Dewitt Clinton High School girls' softball coach to a so-called "rubber room" for city teachers who have been accused of wrong doing.

"They backed up false charges and bogus charges, and I've been sitting in the rubber room two and a half years now," he said.

Filing a federal lawsuit, Smith claims he had been outspoken against racial and regional bias in the Public School Athletic League programs as he fought to get more funding for girls teams and he now charges school officials with retaliating against him.

He says they are also accusing him of sexually harassing a student, who allegedly claims he told her to sit on his lap.

"I have something I normally I say and that's 'take a lap and sit on your spot.' Students are normally assigned floor spots, and she said, 'I have to sit on your lap.' I said, 'No. You heard what it said,'" Smith said.

In 2007, he was assigned to the rubber room.

"You're not allowed to coach. You are not allowed to teach. You just have to wait," attorney Lenard Leeds said.

Smith's attorney claims it then took a year before the Department of Education filed charges against him.

"He's been told that he won't have his hearings for another two years, so four or five years," said

Department of Education officials cannot comment on the lawsuit, but did provide two investigative reports outlining the accusation of inappropriate contact with a student and another claim that Smith was coaching at Dewitt Clinton while calling in sick at his job at another high school.

Daniel Smith, in his lawsuit, claims his constitutional rights have been violated and is seeking damages and lost pay.

"I can't understand why the taxpayers of this city are not outraged by what's going on. You can't get your day in court. You can't even be heard," Smith said.

The United Federation of Teachers, while not directly involved in this case, says it has made recommendation to improve the system.