Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teacher Resists a Charge of Corporal Punishment

May 28, 2009
Teacher Resists a Charge of Corporal Punishment

When Glenn Storman, a guidance counselor at Public School 212 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, came across an unruly student cursing at a substitute teacher in 2004, he ordered the boy to “zip it” and brandished a rolled-up piece of paper, thinking that would be the last he heard of the encounter.
But five years later, Mr. Storman, 57, is embroiled in a legal dispute over allegations that he committed corporal punishment. A 27-year veteran of the school system, Mr. Storman denies hitting the student and is seeking to erase an unsatisfactory rating that a principal gave him. The Department of Education, however, has defended the rating, arguing that Mr. Storman did indeed touch the student, who was in the fifth grade.
The case shows the difficulties teachers can face in disputing the ratings they receive each year from principals. The ratings can determine whether they are eligible for lucrative teaching opportunities outside of the normal school year. The case also sheds light on the fine lines of interpretation surrounding the question of corporal punishment: Did Mr. Storman’s paper brush against the student? If so, was that intentional, and did it rise to the level of corporal punishment?
Teachers who receive unsatisfactory ratings are allowed to appeal to a court, and this month a judge in Manhattan ruled in Mr. Storman’s favor, saying she did not find evidence of corporal punishment. The unsatisfactory rating, wrote the judge, Acting Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich, “shocks the conscience, was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”
The Department of Education said last week that it was reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.
In October 2004, Mr. Storman entered a special education classroom at P.S. 212 after hearing a student yelling. When he stepped into the room, he saw the student on his knees on a chair cursing at the teacher. Holding the piece of paper in his hand, Mr. Storman recalled in an interview, he told the student to be quiet. The student moved forward as he reprimanded him, but Mr. Storman said he did not remember coming into contact with him.
Mr. Storman said he would not have hit the student because he had experience with special education students and did not believe force was the best way of resolving disputes.
“I don’t need to do anything more than to look at them and say, ‘Listen, you know to stop right now,’ ” he said.
Mr. Storman said he had been carrying the rolled-up paper while walking down the hallway. In previous statements to school officials he said he “may have touched” the student’s mouth with the paper, according to the court ruling. He says now that he does not believe that was so.
The boy’s father complained to the school’s principal, who asked for an inquiry, and in 2005, Mr. Storman, who is still a guidance counselor at P.S. 212, received an unsatisfactory rating in his annual review. He appealed, but the Department of Education stood by its determination that he had committed corporal punishment.
Mr. Storman appealed again in 2006, seeking $100,000 in compensation because, he said, the unsatisfactory rating prevented him from getting work as a summer school teacher and a tutor, work which he estimates had added about $25,000 a year to his income. He has also filed a lawsuit in federal court, which is still pending.
Mr. Storman was given another unsatisfactory rating in 2008 after his principal said he had inappropriately yelled at a student, according to Mr. Storman’s lawyer, John. C. Klotz. Mr. Storman is also appealing that rating.
An investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations ultimately substantiated the charges of corporal punishment. But in an apparent change of heart, the investigator who wrote that report, Dennis Boyles, testified during the appeal process that he did not believe Mr. Storman’s actions rose to the level of corporal punishment, according to the May 11 ruling.
Mr. Boyles testified in 2006 that the encounter constituted “inappropriate physical contact” but not corporal punishment, the court ruling said. Last year, Mr. Boyles reiterated his statement that he did not believe Mr. Storman’s actions amounted to corporal punishment, but added that Mr. Storman inappropriately touched the student with the paper, according to the ruling.
The Department of Education defines corporal punishment as “any act of physical force upon a pupil for the purpose of punishing that pupil.”
Mr. Boyles stated in his report that three students in the classroom at the time of the encounter could not recall seeing the paper hit the student’s face. But the fifth grader whom Mr. Storman had reprimanded told the investigator that Mr. Storman had brushed the paper against his lips and embarrassed him, though he added that he had not been physically injured.
The principal of P.S. 212 said at a hearing last year that she had recommended that Mr. Storman be given the unsatisfactory rating because of Mr. Boyles’s findings, which she believed substantiated the corporal punishment charges, according to the ruling.
Justice Kornreich called the Department of Education’s actions “irrational.”
“Nothing in the record supports the D.O.E.’s conclusion that Mr. Storman committed a substantiated act of corporal punishment,” she wrote, ordering that the unsatisfactory rating be annulled.
Mr. Storman said in an interview that the Department of Education had turned a “pebble” into a “mountain worth of wrongdoing.”
“This was a long hard, road,” he said, “and a costly one to me.”


Anonymous said...

I had an experience similar to Mr. Stoman's in which I was accused of corporal punishment for patting on the shoulder of one student who was on the headphones that prevented him from responding to my repeated verbal directives. The same investigator, Mr. Boyles, stated on the tape at U rating hearing that he did not believe that my action rose to the level of corporal punishment. In addition, my principal admitted that the incident occurred without malice or ill intent between the student and me. Regardless of the above facts, I still received a negative latter in file, first u rating for the year, and 3020a charges two years later for the same allegation of corporal punishment. Now my case is pending for a hearing.

The_Educator said...

Hi can you please have a look a and just leave a post.


Anonymous said...

"There is a six month limit on any investigation conducted by the DOE."

Is this accurate?
For a Probationary Teacher...are there any rights...?