Saturday, March 08, 2008

Disciplinary Letter-In-File (LIF) , Is It Subject To A 3020-a Hearing?

A little noticed event happened a while ago when four Brooklyn teachers received disciplinary letters in their files (LIF) for not reporting on another teacher who may, or may not have improperly touched students. The four teachers sued in court since the UFT negotiated away the right to grieve LIF. The NYS Supreme Court judges agreed with the four teachers that since disciplinary LIF cannot be grieved, the teachers should have their LIF's expunged or brought before an arbitrator under the state 3020-a regulations. The judges rightly determined that the teachers due process rights were violated. The DOE has appealed the judges decision to the NYS Appellate Court and if they lose, the consequences can be earth shattering.

Why are the judges decision significant? Because if it stands, the DOE and UFT will need to pay arbitrators to hear all disciplinary LIF's if the teacher demands it. Can you imagine the cost and chaos that will occur if all teachers appeal their disciplinary LIF's? As is, there are not enough arbitrators to hear the existing 3020-a cases, which is why there are two year waits by teachers presently in the 3020-a process. Many of us were slow to realize the implications of the four teachers winning their disciplinary LIF lawsuit. However, it is now becoming clear the havoc it will do to the 2005 contract provision of ungrievable LIF. In other words it looks like the lack of a grievance for a disciplinary LIF, agreed by the UFT & DOE, has backfired. The ICE-UFT blog has reported on the lawsuit previously but seemed not to realize the implications if the DOE loses the appeal. The article can be found on the link below.

The destruction that the 2005 contract has had on the teachers is well documented by many education bloggers, including myself, and I will not rehash it here. However, the judges decision may be the first significant step in reversing these terrible and punitive provisions of the 2005 contract. One can only hope that the DOE appeal is shot down and with it, the ungreivable LIF.


Anonymous said...

Chaz the DOE dropped the appeals. The letters are gone, however the implications might not be as great as you think as only letters that came from an OSI or SCI investigation would be involved.

The following is from the most recent State Education Department decision on file letters:

“...the Court of Appeals has [also] recognized a somewhat tenuous but nevertheless real distinction between admonitions to a teacher which are critical of performance and are in the nature of evaluations or administrative efforts to achieve improvement in performance, and disciplinary determinations of a punitive nature” (Appeal of Richardson, 24 Ed Dept Rep 104, 106, Decision No. 11,333). In Richardson, the Commissioner applied the court's analysis in Holt to sustain the appeal of a tenured teacher who had served as the school nurse and direct the removal of a critical letter from her personnel file. In that case, the petitioner was removed from her position and administratively transferred to a different school. The decision set forth the following factors to be considered in determining whether a letter constitutes an impermissible reprimand: whether the letter is from the teacher’s immediate supervisor or from the board of education; whether the letter is directed towards an improvement in performance or is a formal reprimand for prior misconduct; whether the letter is in the nature of a performance evaluation or a castigation for misconduct; and the severity of the misconduct and of the admonition or reprimand. “The language of the letter and the circumstances in which it was issued must be considered as a whole, and a determination made whether it is a corrective admonition or a disciplinary reprimand” (Appeal of Richardson, 24 Ed Dept Rep 104, 106, Decision No. 11,333; see also Appeal of Fusco, 39 id. 836, Decision No. 14,396)."

Remember the criteria. Read this closely please as file letters can still be written and our old grievance process was the best place to fight them. Fighting them with the state in this way was always possible.

Chaz said...


Thank you for the update on the DOE appeals. However, you didn't explain if the DOE is required to either remove the LIF or proceed with the 3020-a process for disciplinary LIF. The criteria you listed does not clear that up. Further, how about a disciplinary LIF by the principal? Where does that fit?

I agree the grievance process was the way to handle this but alas the UFT saw fit to give that up.

Anonymous said...

I am in exact similar situation as these 4 teachers. I was placed in the rubber room and sent back to the school without being charged for any offenses. However, the principal, circumventing 3020-a, placed LTF based upon the allegation that sent me to the rubber room which was known to be false.

Chaz said...

It would seem to me if you were subject to a disciplinary LIF (misconduct) rather than for teaching issues, you would be able to appeal to the NYS Supreme Court if the DOE refuses to have a 3020-a arbitrator hear the case.

Anonymous said...

Well, the issue is being grieved on technical ground, as the letter was not placed in file with 90 days. I raised the issue of circumventing 3020-a, but the principal only agreed to attatch my note to the letter. time will tell if the currrent UFT grievance on 90 days limitation will prevail.

In addition, this principal closed out my previous cluster, a computer lab, instead, she gave me a group of special ed. kids with pronouced behavioral issues, no one can control them, not herself, not even the Chancellor. In doing so she can set me up for another U for this school year.

I am ready to fight it out in the rubber room. I do not believe that termination will be the end result, but fine and suspension are highly possible in this environment.

I believe that the whole thing was hammperd out by DoE legal services in my previous stint at the rubber room as they had trouble charging me because I had unblemish record going back 20 years, DoE and the school sent me back to the school and are building a case against me for the reprisal of my two previous grievances.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Look the problem is that we have principals in this system that are outright thugs! What's your answer in dealing with adminstrators that act in criminal ways?

Anonymous said...

The principals in the DoE system believe they can get away from anyting they do, laws or no laws, legal or illegal.

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