Over the weekend journo and former NBC and CNN anchor Campbell Brown penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal taking teachers’ unions to task for not being more aggressive about dealing with sexual predators and sexually abusive adults in schools. Whether and how to reform policies dealing with such teachers is being hotly debated in California and New York right now.
Brown’s op-ed set off a firestorm (Eduwonk links here and here for background and my take) and a fairly nasty debate – as much about Brown’s motivations as about the underlying issue. In her first interview about these topics since the op-ed I asked her a few questions about this earlier today. Here’s what she had to say about the issue as well as charges of sexism and lack of disclosure.
You’ve testified about sexual abuse by teachers before Governor Cuomo’s school reform commission and written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, what got you interested in this issue?
I am the mother of two young children. I was horrified reading news reports about what was happening and why it was happening. I felt compelled to try to help in some way. As a writer and former TV journalist, I thought I might be able to bring more attention to the problem.
In your view, what needs to happen?
There is legislation on the table [in New York] that could solve this problem. It was introduced by State Senator Stephen Saland. It would give school districts and the schools chancellor in New York City the authority to fire teachers who are clearly a threat to our students, while still respecting due process and giving teachers the right to appeal. The arbitrators would hear cases and make recommendations, but the buck has to stop with the person responsible for the safety of our kids. Not some arbitrator.
The American Federation of Teachers says this issue has been addressed through the reforms that Kenneth Feinberg designed for them. Why, in your view, are those steps insufficient?
That is simply not true. How does speeding up a broken arbitration process help? If this issue has been addressed, then how come a teacher who asked a young girl for a striptease was not fired; then how come a teacher touched a young girl’s breast and engaged in sexual banter with kids was not fired; then how come a teacher whose holding and touching of young boys was found to be at best impropriety and at worst pedophilia not fired? I keep asking the unions these questions and no one has an answer.
The teachers unions say that due process must be respected here and that this legislation would erode due process for teachers and leave those falsely accused – which does happen – vulnerable. In your view, how should we balance due process concerns with the urgency of addressing this problem?
This legislation absolutely respects due process. Any accusation must first be substantiated by an independent investigator. In New York City that is the office of special investigations; outside of the city often an independent law firm may be used. That stage is intended to address unfounded accusations. Then there would still be an arbitrator who would weigh that evidence. The arbitrator would make a recommendation to the Chancellor or school district and they would have the final say (this is the process that exists for most city employees by the way – why should teachers be different?). And then, if the teacher still felt wronged, that teacher could appeal the decision in a court of law. If that is not due process, I don’t know what is.
This isn’t a new problem, why is reforming these policies so difficult?
Politics. The sad truth. But I believe if we can keep shining a light on this, Albany will understand that nothing is more important than protecting our kids and ensuring the public schools are safe. The union’s position is simply indefensible.
Critics have seized on your husband’s [Dan Senor] affiliation with the New York chapter of Students First to discredit you. In retrospect, should you have disclosed his role as a board member in the op-ed?
Yes. Absolutely. But tell me why this matters? This is just an attempt to distract people from the problem. The teachers union is protecting these teachers and they have to stop.
You wrote that critics raising your husband’s role with the Romney campaign was sexist, say more about that?
In particular Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers raised the issue. First, protecting our children from sexually predatory teachers should not be a partisan issue. Second, I believe when a woman in a position of power who serves as a role model for so many (as I believe Ms. Weingarten does) suggests that another woman is incapable of independent thought and is just doing her husband’s bidding, it is extremely damaging to the aspirations of women generally. Denigrating another woman’s views, not on the merits, but just with petty partisanship, is beneath her. It is also an attempt to distract from the real issue and the problems I raised above. Their position is simply indefensible.
Are you planning to become more involved in education? If so, how?
I am passionate about this issue, and I am going to fight as hard as I can to see that this legislation gets passed. I believe that whenp eople come to understand what is really happening, they will support it. I believe that the unions and Albany will come around. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. The teachers the union represents don’t want these predators in the classroom anymore than parents or students. We all just want to ensure that our schools are safe.
Photo credit CNN.
30 Replies to “Campbell Brown In Her Own Words”
In Maryland, suspected child abuse is to be reported.
No if, and or buts.
Failure to do so can lead to criminal prosecution of the teacher who was told by a child or had reason to suspect.
Am I to understand that is not the case in New York, that teachers can ignore abuse, and that the teacher unions fight to change laws.
Maybe Randi should have called Campbell a liar and left it at that.
It’s pretty relevant to Brown’s direct financial tie to StudentsFirst — and to making sexual misconduct with minors an issue — that the husband of its founder, Michelle Rhee, has been accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Rhee appears to have very little capacity for shame, but you still have to wonder if she and husband Kevin Johnson would rather not hear discussions of sexual misconduct with minors in connection with StudentsFirst’s name. That’s a very, very fragile glass house from which Brown et al. are throwing stones. tinyurl.com/ydb92cp
That’s a serious charge. Does she have a direct financial tie? Do you have evidence money has changed hands?
Her husband is on the board (and as I said I think that should have been mentioned), but it’s a non-profit, so that’s not the same thing as a financial tie and she clearly has no financial interest in the outcome of this policy dispute – unless of course she’s moonlighting as an arbitrator.
Yes, there is an answer to the problem of allowing abusers of children to go unchecked in the schools. It is this:
Almost all states have laws mandating the immediate reporting of abuse against children, but often these laws are ignored. These laws MUST be obeyed and there should be serious consequences for those who pressure employees to sweep offenses under the rug. All school employees (teachers, administrators, nurses etc.) should be reminded each year that the person who suspects the abuse MUST report it to law enforcement himself and should not turn this duty over to another person, even if pressured to do otherwise. During my last years of teaching I had to sign a statement each year attesting to the fact that I understood this law. Even so, there was tremendous pressure from administration to “let us handle this.”
The abuse of a child is a very serious crime and is the province of law enforcement and not “the unions” or “downtown.”
Something is very wrong with Brown’s op-ed because even a cursory investigation would have shown that these cases of child predators belonged with law enforcement and not “the unions.”
What happened at Penn State is happening across the nation is school districts big and small. School leaders, desperate to protect the images of their schools, sweep accusations under the rug, or, worse, ignore them. When employees go directly to law enforcement, they are often disciplined, demoted or fired (See the case of Eileen Blagden of ABC Unified).
With Penn State, the problem first occurred when school personnel kept their suspicions among themselves instead of turning them over to police. Well, that’s exactly what happens in many schools. When the Miramonte sex case comes up for trial, people will see who the real culprits are.
I hope some astute reporter looks into the reasons for this op-ed by Ms. Brown. Why did she take this stance when the facts should have pointed her in another direction?
Linda: As always, you make good points. I agree with you: Why are we blaming teachers unions for this problem? Wouldn’t the fault lie with the administrators, individual teachers or others who failed to report the problem as required by law?
I understood that Brown’s husband was a staffer at StudentsFirstNY. If I’m incorrect and board members are unpaid, I retract the information about financial interest.
It’s not like there would be anything WRONG with being a paid staffer, or a board member receiving honoraria, at StudentsFirstNY. So I don’t see how that’s a serious charge.
It would be a breach of journalistic ethics for a journalist to promote her husband’s employer’s interest without disclosing the conflict, but it’s also a breach of journalistic ethics for her to fail to disclose the conflict even if he receives no compensation for board service. She has definitely committed that breach — that’s beyond argument.
My greater point is that they are in a very, very awkward position accusing teachers of being child molesters, given the accusations about Kevin Johnson, Michelle Rhee’s husband.
To address some of the questions above: Board members at Students First (as with most non-profits) GIVE money to the organization. They do not receive money. There is no financial issue here. Second, the examples I cited did not rise to the level of criminal charges (believe me, I wish they had). Apparently it is legal to ask a young girl for a striptease. It was the arbitrator who decided it was not a firing offense. Same with other examples. That is why the process is broken and must be changed. These reports are all a matter of public record and you can read them for yourself if you are interested in doing the research. I hope this answers your questions.
Campbell, do you send or do you plan to send your children to New York City public schools? (I figure this is a fair question, given the “I have children” defense.)
It is up to the police and not “the unions” or “downtown” to decide if a behavior is criminal. School professionals are mandated to report suspicious behavior and that certainly would include asking a child to do a striptease. If it is deemed by the police and the arbitrator that the teacher is innocent, should she lose her job? Believe me when I say there are many false accusations against teachers, especially at the secondary level.
Arbitrators were originally instituted to decide if a teacher should lose her job when accusations of incompetence or unprofessional conduct were levied against her. It was not intended to deal with criminal behavior. That is for the police and the courts. Once a teacher is convicted of a crime, her credential is almost always pulled and she automatically loses her job. If she is not guilty of a crime, but rather of “unprofessional behavior” she has a right to defend herself, just as you would be if accused of this on the job. Do we want less for teachers?
Ms. Brown, you are an excellent journalist. Please investigate the Miramonte scandal in Los Angeles and you will see that it is similar to Penn State; that is, accusations were ignored or hidden by (mostly) administration. Also, please remind all school employees to report their suspicions to police and not the union rep or the school principal. Cases of sexual abuse should be handled by our judicial system and not by state arbitrators. Thank you.
So, the problem is the law, not the union.
Parents across the country need to pay close attention to this issue because it will set precedent for other states for allowing substantiated sexual predators to teach in ANY classroom ! As a public school parent its very disturbing for any ADULT within the public school system to turn a blind eye to sexual abuse of ANY child and for this information to be withheld from parents the guardians of these children is criminal.
Where is child welfare services, teachers are mandatedreporters so an independent investigation should occur from child welfare agencies! They should be held just as liable for allowing any adult to have sole invetigation pwer heck they are CHILD welfare services!
Also, its very disturbing that teacher unions weigh in and in some instances control the policies tha govern many school decisions yet feel they should be not held responsible for their members. It is too convenient that they should be “held harmless” for teachers/principals that have substantiated cases on sexual miscoinduct against students.
The bottom line is parents should have the final say so over where their children attend school and what classrooms there child should be in especially if the school environment is unsafe and cannot meet the educational needs of children. Horace mann did not address this issue when he developed cumpulsory education laws.
I would say that there is a problem with compliance with the laws and not with the laws themselves. In California there are strict laws protecting schoolchildren from abuse, but, as is often the case with laws protecting both children and women, these laws are often ignored.
In the case of Miramonte, we can see how Deasy and other administrators who failed to report the accusations against the suspect, deftly and shamefully tried to place the blame on “the unions,” which of course had no part whatsoever in it. It is not within the legal jurisdiction of unions to decide on the guilt or innocence of teachers accused of crimes. Fortunately the judicial system recognizes this and that’s why all the lawsuits name the administrators and/or the district as defendants and not “the unions.”
In the Cerritos case, we can see what happened to a school principal who dared to file a report with the police when an employee threatened murder. She was immediately placed on leave and then demoted because she had been explicitly ordered by “downtown” to keep it quiet.
The sad irony of this whole situation is the fact that the very people, classroom teachers, who protect the vast majority of schoolchildren against any kind of abuse, are getting the blame for the very few (less than .001% ) who abuse their trust. There are laws to deal with these people and these laws need to be obeyed. There is absolutely no excuse for administration placing a child sexual predator in the classroom and frankly I don’t believe they are forced to by any “arbitrator” or union member. Teachers and parents wouldn’t stand for it.
DC Attorney: You asked why the unions are being blamed for this shameful noncompliance. The answer can be found today on the Huffington Post. The only way to loosen the purse of public education tax money is to destroy the public’s confidence in education. Also, if teachers can be relieved of their salaries and benefits, there will be a huge windfall for the profiteers. Thankfully, more and more journalists are catching on to this effort to take our schools away from the jurisdiction of the American people.
Thanks, Andrew, for posting Ms. Campbell’s replies. When I read her statement that it’s sexist to imply she’s doing what her GOP husband tells her to do, I think she’s misunderstanding the point. Campbell Brown herself did write a piece about Obama “condescending” to women by touting contraception and health care accomplishments by his administration when the economy is tough. That’s a pretty partisan attitude on her part: among the middle class and poor people I know, a pregnancy or a new baby brings a LOT of extra costs. People still love their kids, but having babies is an expensive challenge even in a good economy.
It’s pretty clear that Campbell’s attitude toward Obama is similar to her husband’s. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin marriage, and it’s not sexist to point that out.
@Campbell Brown, it’s STILL a flagrant violation of journalistic ethics for you to fail to disclose the connection as you promote StudentsFirst’s issue. This is not a gray area; it’s a clear-cut ethical failure.
It’s also a quite an eye-opener given the accusations of sexual misconduct against minors by Michelle Rhee’s husband.
This is what is really happening:
I just read that James Holmes’ psychiatrist reported him to the university’s Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment Team because she believed he was a threat to others. However, the university never informed police of this. Sound familiar?
Predators are in schools because there is a serious noncompliance issue that allows these dangerous people to stay in classrooms. If you want to do something to help, try to convince people to report suspicions of serious crimes to law enforcement. There should be serious consequences for principals who pressure teachers to “keep quiet” about abuse. And teachers should have to sign a statement every year attesting to the fact that they understand they are mandatory reporters who cannot give the job to someone else. Also, remind administrators that they should NEVER place a person they believe is a sexual predator in the classroom no matter what. Decisions can always be appealed. (Of course, this is really about getting power away from the mainly female unions. “Chancellors” -what an appropriate word!- want to be able to dismiss teachers without cause). Well, I hope women’s advocacy groups start to take notice.
If you want to help, do what you can to stop the widespread habit of sweeping serious accusations and/or suspicions under the rug. This is what is really happening and a lot of children and other people are being hurt because of it.
But the op/ed wasn’t Brown’s first public statement about the issue of sexual predators in schools. A week ago, she delivered a surprising testimony on the issue before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission during its New York City meeting.
Not everyone who asked to speak was given a chance to. But Brown had been given the top speaking slot on the “teacher quality” panel with testimony that coupled concern about sex abuse with statistics about low student test scores and college-readiness rates.
campbell brown Says:
August 2nd, 2012 at 2:25 pm
To address some of the questions above
What about the rest?
If I understand Mrs. Brown correctly, teachers can abuse kids or ignore parental/guardian abuse and not get into trouble.
The police can not be called because of grievance procedures.
As John Stossell would say, Give Me a break.
If the DOE was doing such a splendid job of protecting children from suspected acts of child abuse- not the currently non-criminal (by Campbell Brown’s own description), but inappropriate behaviors Brown describes, why did NYS change the law in 2007 mandating all school personnel to report suspicions to the SCR directly, as opposed to going through the DOE’s appointed person? Because there were instances when teachers were influenced by school administrators and/or DOE officials into NOT reporting the suspicions-even though they have always been mandated to report regardless. Even now, teachers are required to inform their principals when they have filed a report.
I would like a link to read all of these arbitration cases she cited to form my own opinion if as Brown is asserting, the current laws don’t allow certain sexually inappropriate behaviors which teachers are found guilty of to be categorized under the current legal definition of sexual misconduct which would result in termination.
If that is true, the answer is to work together to change the law to include more behaviors-not give the DOE the authority to side-step the law and the accepted standard of determining punishment that the arbitrators use.
To say the UFT “protects sexual predators” because they don’t want to give the authority of judicial review which result is the loss of teacher’s due process rights is misleading and sensationalistic.
I have not seen one press release by the DOE which claims to have be working on an improved definition of sexual misconduct that the UFT has fought.
I have not read the case Brown keeps citing about the teacher who asked a girl to perform a striptease, was found guilty, yet was not fired for it. What I read seemed to be a discussion of the case, and no mention specifically about a request to perform a striptease was mentioned.
I have not read the case Brown keeps citing about the teacher who asked a girl to perform a striptease, was found guilty, yet was not fired for it.
So, in NYC public schools, you can be convicted of a crime involving a sex offence, yet still teach.
No. If you are convicted of a crime involving a sex offense, not only do you get fired, you go to jail. This teacher was never convicted of a crime. In fact, according to this link, after being acquitted of criminal charges, the investigation unit dropped the charges against him- but he was never informed and remained in the now defunct “rubber room” for years after. This is the teacher who Brown sites in her article as the one who asked a student for a striptease.
Andrew Rotherham, much like Campbell Brown is shameless, and I suggested Ravitch should tweet, a liar.
Notice how Andy’s cutesy “interview” doesn’t ask for data from Campbell.
We saw the same Feb 2011 when evidence became available showing Michelle Rhee lied.
Andy pooh-poohed that as well.
For Andy, and Campbell, this is a People magazine moment-all show no substance.
McCarthy replied that “Everything. I once said in an interview that every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.'”
I can’t put it into words how utterly offensive it is for Campbell Brown to assert that she has more interest in protecting students than the entire American Federation of Teachers.
That Campbell Brown’s passion and dedication to children is greater than those who have committed to teaching children as their life’s service.
That the entire contract must be thrown out because .0025 percent of New York teachers received a ruling not to her favor.
Lastly, I still want to know what kind of police authority would NOT arrest any adult for touching a child’s breast. Is this a smear on NYPD and SCR as well? This fabricated controversy does not even come close to passing the smell test and serves to foster further disdain for organizations such as Students First and those who shill for them.
Giving money via a 501(c)3 allows one to write off the amount given. That in itself is a financial benefit–when you’re rich, like Campbell.
And let’s not forget about the real reason for being on a board–power (money).
She is a tool of the oligarchy, like SF and this here blog.
So, three full days have passed by and no response or documentation from Andrew Rotherham or Campbell Brown.
And Andrew has the audacity to challenge CarolineSF. Well, Andrew, you and Campbell have leveled a very serious libel against teachers and their unions.
Is this what you teach your children, that the truth is situational.
Like a stained blue dress?
Mathematical physicist here:
Campbell Brown + blogging = lethal weapon.
Campbell, give your anxieties a rest.
Teachers can no more be deprived of due process than you.
Hey, I accuse you of molesting your own children.
Prove I am NOT correct
I wish I were as cute as Campbell.
I do not wish I were as passionate or anxious.
Campbell is Naomi Fisher’s replacement.
Another passionate, science and math dunce.
Sue for libel and slander.
And then bankrupt the school district.
Teachers have due process rights.
They did not surrender any of their constitutional rights when they walked in the door.
Sorry Campbell. You may be cute, but……