An archive of articles and listserve postings of interest, mostly posted without commentary, linked to commentary at the Education Notes Online blog. Note that I do not endorse the points of views of all articles, but post them for reference purposes.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Court: Ed.NY Post: Dept. rushed to judgment in firing teacher accused of hitting student
A Manhattan judge today schooled the Education Department in due process — ruling that the agency rushed to judgement in firing a probationary teacher accused of striking a student.
The schools investigator completely ignored evidence that former PS 35 math teacher Charles Bryant, hadn’t hit the 6-foot parolee he was accused of attacking — and was actually the victim, Justice Emily Jane Goodman found.
As a result Bryant was fired and barred from working for the city school system, which he’d done for almost 20 years as a paraprofessional.
"It’s been a nightmare, it really has. That’s my career," Bryant told The Post.
Goodman found the determination was unfair. He ordered Bryant’s teaching license be reinstated and that he get a new hearing on the Oct. 8, 2008 incident before a new schools investigator.
That’s because the original investigator never bothered to speak to cops who witnessed the altercation outside of the grades 2-12 school for kids with learning disabilities and those that had been in jail.
Goodman found he based his decision on the account of the teenaged thug — a 16-year-old high school sophomore at the time, who’s now being held without bail at Rikers Island on unrelated felony charges — and three of his pals.
"The case falls apart faster than you say hello when you look at the facts," said Bryant’s lawyer, Stephen Hans.
The four teens — who were cutting class when they ran into Bryant outside the West 52nd Street school — gave conflicting statements to the school investigator about what happened. The "victim," Charles Cherry, said he was punched in the eye; one of his friends said he was put in a headlock; another said the teacher grabbed Cherry’s shirt; and the other said he grabbed Cherry’s face.
"No specific findings were made as to the credibility of the young men though clearly their statements were found more credible than those of a licensed school teacher," Goodman wrote.
The judge also noted that the investigator gave great weight to the principal’s statement that Cherry was bleeding and crying when he returned from the police station after the incident — even though the principal couldn’t remember what Cherry told her, he didn’t need medical attention, his mother said he was "fine" and the cops hadn’t noticed any injuries.
"It is extraordinary that the investigator could base his findings on the principal’s statement when, according to his own report, she was ‘unsure’ of what Cherry said. Such uncertainty as the basis for ending a man’s productive life shocks the conscience," the judge wrote.
The cops found Cherry’s story "didn’t hold up," but Bryant declined their offer to press charges. "If you smack a teacher you should get into trouble, but I didn’t want him to get into that kind of trouble," Bryant told The Post.
"We are disappointed and respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision. We are weighing our legal options," the city Law Department said in a statement.
Bryant had spent almost 20 years working as a teaching assistant with teens at Rikers’ inmate school, but was considered a probationary teacher when in 2008 he went to work at PS 35.
It was shortly after Bryant started working there when Cherry, who was not one of his students, slapped the teacher in the head in an unprovoked attack in the school’s hallway.
Bryant reported the incident to the principal, who said she’d talk to Cherry. When Bryant went outside on his break later that day, he saw the teen outside, and told him to go to the principal’s office.
That’s where things get murky — Bryant said Cherry attacked him, and he was trying to break away from the ex-con and his friends when cops arrived.
Cherry and his pals said Bryant attacked the teen. Bryant denies ever hitting Cherry.