NY Teacher Firing Overturned – You Make The Call

Interesting case in New York.  Two teachers caught having sex in a classroom – but after-hours and more or less away from students were fired.  The state’s supreme court just overturned that decision saying, among other  things, that the penalty was disproportionate to the offense and that teachers who have harmed children have not been fired so why should these two be?

In an informal survey of educators and analysts (meaning I emailed some colleagues) no one condoned it but views about appropriate action were all over the place. Some said that it’s definitely a fireable offense and that anything less is unacceptable. While others said based on the publicly known facts doesn’t seem worthy of immediate termination but rather some other action.  Others said that whatever they think is less important than what the district thought it should do and so they were opposed to the court action as a process issue. In the private sector this sort of thing is handled differently by different organizations, there are not hard and fast rules.

What do you think?

7 Replies to “NY Teacher Firing Overturned – You Make The Call”

  1. Well, after reading your column for a couple of years now, I have to say, given what I’ve learned from you, Andrew, is that, YES, of course they should be fired. Immediately! With no recourse, no hearing, no nothing!

    In fact, given what I’ve leaned about the average lazy, shiftless, no-account, losers who become teachers, they should also have all of their property and money confiscated and turned over to the nearest hedge funder or charter school CEO.

    Then, take them out to the town square, and lynch them. But be sure to bring the whole town out, Andrew, and give a rousing speech to the crowd about how typical these two depraved monsters are and how they represent ALL teachers everywhere!

    Oh, and FYI. I’m NOT a teacher and I never have been one. Neither has anyone in my immediate or extended family, ever. And no close friends are teachers. Got it?

    And if you don’t believe me, email me back and I’ll provide verification. Okay, Andrew?

  2. I wish the firings were upheld. But, that’s not the point. I haven’t studied the case, so what is my opinion worth?

  3. I think that someone who features this story on his blog is not really supportive of teachers or education. But then we all knew that.

  4. Working as a teacher and promoting an educational system that helps kids are fundamental to my identity; this has nothing to do with valuing teachers. This has to do with how you run a system.

    In what industry, governmental or otherwise, should a decision like this be submitted to a court? The real issue here is not whether these two people should be fired; the issue is management by the courts. This is not racial discrimination, administrative corruption, or freedom of speech. It is a decision over whether having sex in your workplace is inappropriate behavior (obviously it is), and what the employment consequence for clearly inappropriate workplace behavior should be. Why should this ever reach a court? Could any person reasonably be expected to run any kind of organization (a school, a district, a small business, a government agency, a union for that matter) if you could not set expectations about what is and is not appropriate and what the consequences for violation of those expectations are?

    Imagine running your current organization and having to worry that if you told someone they could not have sex in the workplace under penalty of firing, and then having to face legal action because of it. No one could run anything effectively this way.

    This is not the meaning of the words, “due process.” In fact it is the essence of undue process. Anyone concerned with the outcomes of their organization, has to care about the organization being run effectively. I assume everyone considering this question cares about the outcomes of school districts for the kids they are meant to serve. If so we can’t support policies that make it impossible to run school districts. In fact aren’t so many of the policies that frustrate us as teachers, the result of poorly run districts?

  5. Issues such as this one are better understood if we consider a hypothetical situation:

    Let us suppose that your sister or your school were involved in this case. Let us further suppose that you love your sister and are very proud and supportive of your school. Would you write about and advertise this situation on your blog (complete with names) or would you do your best to work behind the scenes to help your sister or your school?

    Considering the fact that the vast majority of teachers behave appropriately on the job, I would say that writing about this example of unprofessional behavior demonstrates a desire to show the teaching profession in a bad light.

  6. Dear Linda,

    If your basic point is about loyalty, I get that, but I would reframe the discussion. Though I feel strong loyalty to both my fellow teachers and the schools I’ve been a part of, my ultimately loyalty is to the kids; they are why I entered this whole business in the first place, and overall why the system was created. Often the interests of teachers, or schools are in line with what kids need. Indeed the worst policy approaches are those that act as if we can make education succeed DESPITE teachers instead of WITH teachers. Anyone with a brain knows that what matters most is what teachers do, not what central office or state law etc. does.

    But having said that, we also have to be honest that there are times when the interests of kids, and the interests of teachers and schools conflict. And when that happens, I have to (and I think all of us should) side with what’s best for kids.

    You gave a hypothetical example, but let me give you a real one. A teacher I worked with and who was a friend of mine got caught in a similar situation. He was looking at pornography in his office after school and a kid unexpectedly walked in on him, got freaked out, and told her parents. Then my friend was fired.

    I felt a lot of loyalty to my friend, and he certainly was a good teacher who cared about kids. But he also crossed a line, which anyone working with children should never cross. So even though I was sad for him, and didn’t think he was a bad guy, I think it was right that he was fired, for the sake of the kids. And if he hadn’t been fired, I think it would have been right for journalists and others to draw attention to that, and call it out. We can’t make let our loyalty to adults trump our loyalty to kids.

  7. The article is misleading to the extent that people think a “supreme court” is the highest court in New York. Because of its history, the courts go: trial court is the “Supreme Court” because it has “supreme” or wide-reaching jurisdiction over any issue, then the appellate division then the Court of Appeals.

    The Court of Appeals is the highest court. The Supreme Court in New York is a trial court.

    This matters because a trial court’s opinion/decision can be appealed. My guess is that this one will be.

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