Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sexual harassment and the complicit culture of corruption at DOE

Abusive principals who kept their jobs (credit NY Post)
More terrific reporting by Sue Edelman of the NY Post, to follow up on her earlier exposes,  on the dysfunction that allows predatory principals to repeatedly harass teachers and yet keep their positions and six figure salaries, because DOE has dragged their feet so long they can no longer be fired.

Instead, DOE chronically ignores teachers' claims and instead informs the principals of their accusations, who then retaliate by firing them or making their lives miserable.  In one horrible case that Sue describes, the principal of PS 15 in Queens Antonio K’tori was protected by District 29 Superintendent Lenon Murray, who himself was subsequently accused of sexual harassment.  Earlier, several young girls were molested by a teacher at PS 15, who is now in jail.  The girls won a $16 million jury award against the city, with the parents blaming DOE and the K'tori for “negligent supervision.”

Yet even now, after teacher Shaunte Pennington filed a civil lawsuit against K'tori in court, who fired her after she reported harassment starting in 2012, the DOE has delayed doing anything for so long about her complaints that the three year statute of limitations has lapsed and he can't be dismissed.

“It’s a system that gives predators a platform and access to victims,” Penniston told The Post. “Nothing is done, and there are protections for perpetrators.”

In case after case, even when administrators are removed from their schools, the DOE is forced to pay them their full salaries until they choose to retire.  As I'm quoted in the article, "It’s a terrible burden on the teachers who are complaining, and a terrible burden on taxpayers, because we have to pay large amounts to settle these cases — and then the salaries of the principals in perpetuity."

I've written frequently about the well-known dysfunction at the OSI, the DOE's internal investigative office, as well as the problems at the Special Investigator's office (now under the authority of Commissioner of Investigation Mark Peters).  Both offices have records of refusing to aggressively pursue the valid accusations of whistleblowers, who are then forced to go to the media or to court to get their reports of corruption taken seriously.

The DOE's malign neglect is likely the reason there are so few sexual harassment claims compared to other city agencies, only 570 over four years, considering there are roughly 135,000 full-time workers, mostly women; and an even tinier number -- only seven-- of substantiated complaints.  Teachers are clearly afraid to complain for good reason, knowing that if they do, their jobs may be at risk and DOE and/or the SCI will whitewash their tormentors. Yet when asked why there were so few substantiated reports of harassment at DOE, de Blasio blamed a "culture of complaint" at the Department;

There has been a history, it's pretty well-known inside the education world, of some people bringing complaints of one type or another for reasons that may not have to do with the specific issue — and this is not just about sexual harassment it's about a whole host of potential infractions,

Later, the Mayor was forced to take this statement back, especially after a critical editorial in the NY Times.  But he still hasn't managed to confront how an ingrained culture of corruption has been allowed to fester and grow for many years at DOE.

On the other hand, Chancellor Carranza has said that this is a "Before Richard'” problem and pledged to take the allegations of harassment "extremely seriously." Let's hope he does.  In my experience, I haven't yet noted a single Chancellor who has.


David Suker said...

The Chancellor just retweeted a tweet from Dwarka. He’s not too bright.

Laura h. Chapman said...

Thank you and the reporter for outing these people and the administrators who are protecting them.

Mark's Text Terminal said...

I've been a teacher in the NYCDOE for fifteen years; in that time I have seen a great deal of administrative misconduct. Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...

This DOE “policy” should have been reported to the NYS Education Department long ago.

Presumably, they would have investigated what was going on.

The Commissioner of Education could have ordered the Chancellor to file Education Law § 3020-a charges against any or all of these principals, as appropriate.

Furthermore, NYSED’s Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability (OSPRA) could have initiated Part 83 proceedings against any or all of these principals, as appropriate.

The three-year Statute of Limitations doesn’t apply in situations where tenured individuals (whether teachers or administrators) are being charged with having committed a crime.

Anonymous said...

(PS 15 Queens)

Unknown said...

Principals are given too much power which leads to many of these acts of inappropriate behavior. No one is supervising the principals!

Anonymous said...

Now it’s time to remove Renee Holstein from ps 15. She is giving unfair and unfounded ratings to excellent, seasoned teachers at that school. She tries to set teachers for failure. Excluding the sexual harassment, she’s worse than K’Tori. In June of 2017, 11 teachers left ps 15.

Unknown said...

I feel the same way as many of you. How can we fight for teacher's rights if the system is so corrupt and no one listens and no principal or AP is accountable? And our union representatives do not fight for our right for a safe and healthy working environment..

How do we make a change?

How do we get our voices heard?

Where do we start?