New York City Dept. Of Education Suspends Special Needs Instructor For Helping Student With A Kickstarter Project

from the system-broken-all-the-way-UP-as-well dept

A New York city schoolteacher sent sexually explicit emails to a student -- emails he admitted to sending. It took six years to get him fired, during which he was paid $350,000.

Another instructor was given a 60-day suspension for continually making offensive remarks to his students, like, "These Chinese students need to go back to their own country. They don't belong here."

A NYC school swim coach repeatedly touched and kissed his female students. Told one to shave the hair around her bikini. Commented on another's tan lines. He paid a $7,000 fine and was instructed to take a sexual harassment class.

Hundreds of New York city teachers bounced around the city's so-called "Rubber Rooms" for years, drawing full pay while playing cards and reading magazines as they killed time waiting for their case to come up. Some were "merely" incompetent. Others were facing misconduct charges, ranging from altering grades to physically or verbally abusing students. Very few of these teachers were ever fired. Firing a NYC teacher is generally a costly labyrinth that few with the power to eliminate bad teachers are willing to navigate. (PDF link to a 2-page flowchart showing all the steps needed to remove a lousy teacher from NYC schools.)

These are just some that actually were punished as the result of an investigation. Few teachers actually find themselves being punished for their actions. Between tenure and the city's powerful unions, the Dept. of Education has very little power to reprimand those it's charged with overseeing. But if the system wants to expeditiously punish a teacher, it can. But those it acts quickly against generally aren't the problem.

Case in point: Therapist Deb Fisher received a 30-day suspension for misconduct. Her misconduct?
She raised money on Kickstarter for a program that she and the student, Aaron Philip, 13, created called This Ability Not Disability. An investigator with the Education Department’s Office of Special Investigations, Wei Liu, found that Ms. Fisher sent emails about the project during her workday at Public School 333, the Manhattan School for Children, and was thus guilty of “theft of services.”
Unmentioned in the official report leading to this suspension were any of the following details.
  • The entire school, including the principal, was involved with the Kickstarter project and routinely utilized school email accounts to send update blasts.
  • Ms. Fisher developed an arts program for disabled students aimed at developing tools and supplies they could use. She received a mayoral commendation for this effort.
  • She spearheaded a drive to ensure permanent, accessible housing for Aaron Phillip and his family after unemployment led to a stay at a homeless shelter.
  • The Kickstarter project -- a graphic novel and movie about being the only person with legs in a world filled with wheelchair users -- hit its goal and was celebrated during a town hall meeting.
All of this was ignored in order to punish Ms. Fisher for a small infraction of the rules. The investigation itself stemmed from something even more small-minded and petty than the Dept. of Education's final decision.
[A] co-worker with whom Ms. Fisher had had continuing disagreements made a series of charges against her. Ms. Fisher had complained that the co-worker was physically bullying and taunting her.
Even the best people have their flaws. It's not altogether inconceivable that this one-woman storm of good deeds wasn't above treating someone horribly. Except the accusations were lies.
The special investigators found that none of the serious allegations against Ms. Fisher were true, but said she was guilty of fund-raising for “her own charity.”
Except that this isn't true either. The money went to the student. Not that the Department ultimately cared to sort out the facts.
The report made no mention that the entire building had been involved with the effort, nor did it try to determine whether Ms. Fisher would profit from it in any way. She was suspended on Sept. 15 until the end of October.
Because rules are rules and using the school's email system to raise money for a personal project (albeit one that completely benefited a different person) isn't allowed... even if the rest of the school -- including the principal -- did the same thing. Fisher's 30-day suspension for helping an overachieving student pursue his dreams is the same amount handed out to librarian Devin Black, who helped a 13-year-old student fulfill Black's dreams by telling her she "looked sexy," while touching her -- something that wasn't an isolated incident.

Justice -- true justice -- may be blind, but what passes for "justice" in bureaucratic systems is spineless, officious and brutally incompetent. The same can be said for those who apply the "rules" in this fashion, ensuring no good deed goes unpunished while ignoring the rot and corruption inherent in the system. Whoever oversees the New York Dept. of Education needs to tell everyone involved in this decision that they're clearly too stupid to be entrusted with this -- or any -- power.
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Filed Under: aaron philip, bureaucracy, deb fisher, new york city, nyc, suspension, teachers


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  • icon
    MondoGordo (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 1:16pm

    I'd like to say this surprises me ...

    but in all honesty i have to admit that this sort of capriciousness is exactly what I've come to expect from those in authority.

    God help us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digger, 3 Oct 2014 @ 1:18pm

    Sounds like it's time to start a mass campaign against all the petty individuals involved, let everyone across the country know how stupid and dangerous these people are to their children. They being the people who persecuted the teacher for going above and beyond and being a damned fine human being.
    I would fire and prosecute everyone involved with getting her suspended for perjury, falsifying official reports, theft, prejudicial treatment, bullying and general ass-hattery.
    Then I would knock em out, get "I'm an Asshole who hates children" tattooed across their foreheads while they are out cold.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 1:27pm

    Given that it's likely the same retards who came up with the "zero tolerance" policies that suspend kids for chewing a pop tart into the shape of, well, a pop tart, I'm not surprised.

    It's truly depressing that there is so much blatant ignorance in our education system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 2:39pm

      Re:

      It's not "blatant ignorance in our education system", it's a systematic, unionized protection system that needs to be crushed.

      Paying a child predator $350K while waiting 6yrs to prosecute the dirt bag is what unions are all about now days.

      Recent Headline: "Parents horrified as teachers union fights for $10,000 severance for child molester"

      "Michigan’s largest teachers union will force arbitration in an effort to compel a rural school district to pay a $10,000 severance buyout to a former teacher convicted of molesting a teen boy.

      The disgraced teacher, Neal Erickson, had been a math and computer-education teacher at Rose City Middle School before he was convicted of having sex with the victim on multiple occasions. The sexual encounters began when the unidentified student was an eighth-grade student."

      Union pukes are a child-abusive/molesting protection group.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2014 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re:

        The headlines are one thing, but the reality is that people get falsely accused of wrongdoing quite often. It's important that teachers be afforded special treatment when it comes to due process since they are likely to be targeted by administration, parents, students, etc. Support of unions is incredibly important regardless of the ACCUSATION. Automatically believing an accusation is the problem and is exactly why special protections and union support are incredibly important to prevent the injustice of losing one's job as the result of a false accusation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2014 @ 1:35pm

          Union scum

          Why is the union asking for $10K to give to a CONVICTED child molester? (see post above)

          Why would the union PROTECT (not FIRE) a child predator: "a NYC school swim coach repeatedly touched and kissed his female students. Told one to shave the hair around her bikini. Commented on another's tan lines. He paid a $7,000 fine and was instructed to take a sexual harassment class."

          Why is the union protecting the incompetent teachers and shipping them off to different districts instead of FIRING them?

          Why would the union allow a teacher, who has admitted and confirmed to have sent sexually explicit emails to a child, to collect $350K over six years before being fired?

          Your argument IS the problem and the unions are CLEARLY corrupt protectors of child predators.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2014 @ 8:55pm

            Re: Union scum

            1) If you read the above post, you will (hopefully) notice that the word CONVICTED is not used. You seem to be making some assumptions based on a headline.

            2) The union does not fire employees. School districts do that. The role of the union is to ensure that workers are given the full protection of the law and are not treated unfairly by districts.

            3) If teachers are "shipped off to different districts," then they must have been fired by District A in order to be hired by District B.

            4) Again the union doesn't allow anything. The role of the union is to ensure that workers get full protection of the law. If during legal proceedings a worker is offered a settlement of some kind, then so be it, the union has no say regarding the outcome of legal proceedings.

            A union has no way of knowing if an employee is actually guilty of anything when an accusation is made. The accusation could be false or it could be true. The role of the union is to make sure that employees are treated fairly and that due process is followed. To say that unions protect "child predators" suggests that unions must have some special ability to know if an accusation is true or not without ever conducting an investigation or going through the legal process. The reality is that false charges are often made and it would be irresponsible to not support someone who has been falsely charged with a crime.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2014 @ 12:05pm

              Re: Re: Union scum

              Listen dumbass, the CONVICTED child molester was being protected by the union.

              Search the following loser -
              "Michigan’s largest teachers union will force arbitration in an effort to compel a rural school district to pay a $10,000 severance buyout to a former teacher CONVICED of molesting a teen boy."

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Second and third links are to the same article on swim teacher harassing students.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    zip, 3 Oct 2014 @ 1:45pm

    "Justice" in most organizations generally has more to do with loyalties and alliances than actual conduct.

    Piss off the wrong person, and they'll be patiently waiting for the first opportunity to throw the book at you for the smallest of infractions. But prove your loyalty, and you can literally get away with murder. Like the Albuquerque cop with a history of misconduct who has been rewarded with a 6-month (and counting) paid vacation for killing a homeless guy he previously told another cop he planned to shoot. Keith Sandy must be good pals with some influential people on the police force to get such favorable treatment, despite the public pressure to fire him. (I wonder just how long these *paid vacations* can last?)

    As for Therapist Deb Fisher, I can almost guarantee you she got on the wrong side of her bosses, and if it wasn't for Kickstarter, they would have sooner or later found something else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 2:18pm

      Re:

      No bad deed goes unrewarded. At least not in America.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 4:08pm

        Re: Re:

        It's "At least not in [insert name of place where there are human beings]"
        This happens everywhere around the globe on many different scales.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Robert, 4 Oct 2014 @ 2:59am

      Justice

      Justice? If it was bad enough to fire them, then, why the hell was it not bad enough to prosecute them?
      Not enough evidence to prosecute can be very problematic when it comes to firing them for the same possible offence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 2:09pm

    No good deed goes unpunished. At least not in America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 2:24pm

    'Would you like to plead kinda guilty, guilty, or Very guilty?'

    The report made no mention that the entire building had been involved with the effort, nor did it try to determine whether Ms. Fisher would profit from it in any way. She was suspended on Sept. 15 until the end of October.

    They didn't mention it, because it didn't matter, because they simply didn't care. She was going to be found guilty of something, the alternative was unthinkable(having to admit to being duped into being the instrument of a personal vendetta against her by a co-worker), so clearly any evidence that would clear her was going to be ignored, simple as that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Zonker, 6 Oct 2014 @ 11:13am

      Re: 'Would you like to plead kinda guilty, guilty, or Very guilty?'

      The alternative should have been easy: find her co-worker guilty of bullying/harassment and suspend or terminate them. No wasted effort and the job got done with plenty of kudos to go around.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 4:35pm

    Thank you, Deb Fisher , we need more people in this world like yourself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Made up Name No 13, 3 Oct 2014 @ 4:59pm

    Capriciousness

    Again people need to start admitting they where wrong(the administration not the teacher, in this case) or we will as a civilization (and I mean the entire west) fail and go into a age of violence and failure that has never been seen before in human history.

    I don't expect people to stop being stupid just admit it when you finally realize it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Oct 2014 @ 5:12pm

      Ass covering.

      It's all about the butt.

      It's all about making sure that you are personally not found in the wrong, because erring is an unpardonable crime whereas outright malicious action is not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 6:14pm

        Re: Ass covering.

        You don't learn how to cover your ass without fucking the ass of others.

        That's what kids today are learning, and it's scary and unfortunate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2014 @ 11:28pm

    >Told one to shave the hair around her bikini.

    Um, isn't that the swim coaches job? Hair is bad for swimming. Shave it all off. I mean sure, everything else you listed for this guy is pretty damning, but I'm wondering why this is on the list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Niall (profile), 6 Oct 2014 @ 5:50am

      Re:

      Question is, did he make similar comments to male swimmers, especially with their potentially more extensive body hair? Did he dwell on the bikini line, as opposed to other areas that naturally have hair?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 6 Oct 2014 @ 7:21am

      Re:

      "Hair is bad for swimming. Shave it all off."

      This isn't actually true -- all test show that shaving has no measurable effect measurable effect due to the physics involved. Shaving is promoted because it has two positive effects: it enhanced the sense of team solidarity, and there is often a placebo effect that can lead to better swim times.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2014 @ 2:35am

    Something smells fishy about this their reasons

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2014 @ 2:36am

    What must the kid think, that they did something bad?
    Thats sad

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2014 @ 3:50pm

    I don't really understand why the unions/schools are even relevant for most of these sexual abuse cases. Sexual abuse is a criminal offense, punishable under state and federal criminal codes. Do the unions actually have enough power that their members are exempt from state laws?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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