-By Warner Todd Huston
One of the more absurd aspects of the New York school system is that the teachers union is basically given the right to investigate itself when teachers are accused of sexual misconduct. Sadly, in too many cases the union sides with the criminal teachers instead of their victims.
In the Wall Street Journal, Campbell Brown laments this cozy relationship that unions have with their predator members citing several examples of the failure to punish criminal behavior in New York schools.
"If this kind of behavior were happening in any adult workplace in America, there would be zero tolerance. Yet our public school children are defenseless," he writes.
This lack of punishment occurs, Brown says, because of how the law is written.
Here's why. Under current New York law, an accusation is first vetted by an independent investigator. (In New York City, that's the special commissioner of investigation; elsewhere in the state, it can be an independent law firm or the local school superintendent.) Then the case goes before an employment arbitrator. The local teachers union and school district together choose the arbitrators, who in turn are paid up to $1,400 per day. And therein lies the problem.
Still don't see the problem? Brown goes on.
For many arbitrators, their livelihood depends on pleasing the unions (whether the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, or other local unions). And the unions--believing that they are helping the cause of teachers by being weak on sexual predators--prefer suspensions and fines, and not dismissal, for teachers charged with inappropriate sexual conduct. The effects of this policy are mounting.
So, these "arbiters" are beholden to the teachers and their union, the very people accused of predation yet are still expected to pass unbiased judgment?
Brown goes on to point out that even when the arbiters do punish sexual predator teachers the sentence is often more like a slap on the wrist after which the teacher is right back in the system to perpetrate more acts of predation.
It makes one wonder just who is representing the interests of these kids who’ve had their innocence stolen by sexual predator teachers?
Brown goes on to say that this horrid situation is thankfully not going unnoticed.
Fortunately, state Sen. Stephen Saland has proposed legislation in Albany to do just this, removing arbitrators' final say while still giving teachers due process and the opportunity to appeal terminations in court. But the buck would stop with those officials in charge of our schools and tasked with protecting our kids: the chancellor in New York City, and school districts elsewhere in the state.
But guess who is allowed to have a major say in whether or not the reform gets passed? You guessed it, the union.
Brown hopes the union will suddenly see the light and realize that its practice of allowing sexual predators to keep indulging their crimes at will is not a very good one. But, one would be excused for doubting that the unions will ever do the right thing since for decades they've been guilty of facilitating this sexual misconduct in the first place.