Schools Chancellor Wants Power to Fire Bad Teachers

Dennis Walcott says the current process of having an arbitrator decide punishment doesn't serve students

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    Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wants new legislation that would give him the power to fire teachers found to have engaged in inappropriate or abusive behavior in schools. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

    Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wants new legislation that would give him the power to fire teachers found to have engaged in inappropriate or abusive behavior in schools.

    Walcott says the current process of having an arbitrator decide how to punish teachers guilty of inappropriate behavior is "not a process that serves our students," he wrote in a letter to teachers union president Michael Mulgrew.

    Walcott wants to have the final say on whether an investigated teacher should return to the classroom.

    Walcott's push for the change comes amid of months of emerging reports of teachers and teacher's aides allegedly abusing students or acting inappropriately. The Department of Education currently has a list of 16 teachers it wants to fire but cannot.

    The list, obtained by NBC 4 New York, describes one teacher who "pressed his groin against a 16-year-old female's leg," and another who "showed a female student an image on his phone of a man and a woman having sex."

    One teacher "victimized female adolescents entrusted to his care," and another was accused of "rubbing the back and patting the butt of a 6-year-old."

    Under the proposed disciplinary process, the teacher "will still have their due process rights," Walcott told NBC 4 New York.

    "There will be an investigation, the arbitrator can rule and the arbitrator will make a decision," he added. "What we're saying is, some decisions I will find unacceptable."

    An arbitrator "tries to appease both the city and the teachers union," Walcott claims, and "does not have to face parents and explain why a teacher who violated their trust is still in the classroom."

    In response, Mulgrew said, "As part of the UFT's zero-tolerance policy, our contract mandates termination of employees found guilty of such offenses."

    But "these are not criminal convictions we're talking about," Walcott said. "These are cases that have been substantiated involving improper touching or sexual contact, but it may not be criminal." 

    The legislation was announced Thursday by state Sen. Stephen Saland, alongside Mayor Bloomberg and Walcott.

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