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
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.
[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.