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NEW YORK — “Over the past 10 years, we’ve made a lot of progress in our schools. A lot of people deserve credit for that – especially our students. But another group deserves enormous credit, and that’s our teachers. New York City has the best teachers in the world. Nearly all are hardworking and devoted to their students.
“But just as in any profession, some employees act in ways that demand nothing short of their termination. Teachers who violate their students’ trust by making sexual advances or comments must be removed from the classroom – however the current regulations prevent just that, permitting some to return to our schools. It’s indefensible. It endangers our children. It must end. And our Administration is taking steps to make sure that it does.
“On Tuesday, along with New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and State Senator Stephen Saland, I urged a change in State law that would give school officials the authority to dismiss teachers who engage in sexual behavior against students. We were joined by leaders of education organizations representing school districts and superintendents from across the state. And we urge the United Federation of Teachers to join us. As I said then: No one’s interest is served by protecting teachers who have engaged in misconduct and put our children at risk.
“While preserving every employee’s right to due process, this new reform would also amend current law so that school districts – and in New York City, the Schools Chancellor – would have the final say on what action to take in cases of teacher misconduct involving inappropriate behavior with children. As the law stands today, outside hearing officers decide on these cases and impose binding penalties – including whether or not a teacher is fired. And let me just give you one example of what that can mean.
“In one case, an investigator found that a teacher had inappropriately touched a number of female students. This was the teacher’s second hearing for such offensive behavior. But the hearing officer only imposed suspension without pay and a ‘strong warning.’ Apparently, the warning didn’t work – because now we’re actually filing charges against this individual for a third time for a separate incident.
“If a teacher has been found to have engaged in sexual misconduct, he or she should be terminated. Period. That’s the way it is for most other City employees – and it just makes no sense that teachers would be held to lower standards.
“While we push this reform, we know our children cannot afford to wait – so our Department of Education has taken steps immediately addressing this problem. That includes strengthening hiring and personnel review polices, and creating a new departmental unit that will challenge disciplinary findings that aren’t strong enough.
“Every child deserves a safe learning environment. Every parent has the right to know that his or her child is safe while at school. And our Administration will not accept regulations that put our children at risk.
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