sexual misconduct

Charter watch

Under investigation

Leadership shift

under the microscope

Background checks

Keeping students safe

Curveball

New York

Walcott reassures Harlem parents over latest sex crime case

Chancellor Walcott takes questions outside P.S. 208 on 1West 11th Street. Dennis Walcott's first stop on a busy Friday was to reassure anxious families at Harlem's P.S. 208, where a teacher was arrested yesterday on charges of molesting a third-grader. Walcott has made a series of similar visits this spring at schools around the city amid a spate of sex abuse accusations. The surge in accusations has spurred Walcott to campaign for a state law that would make it easier for him to fire teachers who commit sexual misconduct, a campaign that he took to the op/ed page of the New York Times today. But Walcott said the bill would not likely apply to a case like P.S. 208's, which is being handled by the District Attorney, not Department of Education or city investigators. School workers who are convicted of sex crimes in criminal courts are fired under existing rules. But if they are charged but acquitted, non-criminal investigators can still find culpability, which would trigger a discipline hearing that could result in the teacher being fined and reinstated. "We'll have to see what happens with the case itself," he told reporters. "One of the things I've been talking about is cases that may not be a conviction, but have been substantiated by the Special Commissioner of Investigations. I want to move those decisions out of the hands of arbitrators." Walcott spoke to lawmakers in Albany last week, and has sent city officials to hold more meetings this week. But sources told the Daily News that the bill is not likely to pass during this legislative session, which concludes on Tuesday.
New York

Bill would give city the right to fire teachers in sex abuse cases

State senator Stephen Saland (right) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg look on as Chancellor Dennis Walcott describes the reasoning behind a bill that would give the city decision-making power when teachers are accused of sexual misconduct. A legal change that Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced he wanted in March now has a legislator standing behind it. State Sen. Stephen Saland is sponsoring a bill that would give school district chiefs the right to fire teachers who have been found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a student. Under the current disciplinary process, once the city files charges against a teacher accused of misconduct, an independent arbitrators determines whether teachers have behaved inappropriately, and determine the punishment, no matter the offense. This bill would create a new disciplinary process for the small number of teachers accused of sexual misconduct. The special process would send the arbitrator's ruling back to school district officials, who could overrule it. The district would have the power to fire any teacher found to have engaged in sexual misconduct. Termination would be the default consequence, although the district could opt for a lesser punishment. Walcott and Mayor Bloomberg announced the proposed legislation today at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence on the Upper East Side. Flanked by Saland, the superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools and several other representatives of state district superintendents, Walcott and Bloomberg said those who might oppose the legislation would be choosing to protect teachers over students. "If city government can't take care of them, I don't know who is going to," Bloomberg said about city students. "We are calling on the United Federation of Teachers to join us."