Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What The Chancellor's Regulations Really Say About Teacher Corporal Punishment and Verbal Abuse


The Chancellor's Regulations are what all school staff is subject to and violating these regulations can get a teacher in trouble. I have decided to investigate the Chancellor's Regulations on Corporal Punishment (A-420) and Verbal Abuse (A-421). Let's see if these regulations are vague enough that just about all teachers targeted by administrators can be subject to these regulations.

Corporal Punishment- A-420. According to the Chancellor's Regulations, Corporal Punishment is defined as "any act of physical force upon a student for the purpose for punishing that student". While the Chancellor's Regulations do allow for reasonable force against a student. The statement at the end of the regulation is what an administrator can use against a teacher. In bold capital letters it states.

"NO CORPORAL PUNISHMENT SHALL BE INFLICTED IN ANY OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NOR PUNISHMENT OF ANY KIND TENDING TO CAUSE EXCESSIVE FEAR OR PHYSICAL OR MENTAL DISTRESS. VIOLATION OF THIS BYLAW SHALL CONSTITUTE GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL".

The key phrase is excessive fear or physical or mental distress. That means if a teacher defends herself from a student attack and restrains him which can cause the violent student to fear the teacher, that teacher can be targeted by the administrator under the Corporal Punishment regulations. Another example of this is a teacher breaks up a fight and one student claims the teacher hurt him when breaking up the fight. Guess what the administrator can do? Right charge the teacher under the Corporal Punishment regulations. Finally, a teacher doesn't have to even touch the student. He just needs to threaten the student with "you are headed for jail, the way you act" That can meet the mental distress requirement of the Corporal Punishment regulations. Seems unreal? Well if you don't believe it see for yourself. The Corporal Punishment regulations can be found here.

Verbal Abuse - A-421.

Verbal abuse is not corporal punishment but includes any language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress of a student. However, here again is the nasty catchall phrase.

"Nothing in this regulation, however, prevents a supervisor from counseling or disciplining an employee for inappropriate speech or conduct that is not otherwise in violation of this regulation".

What does the Verbal Abuse regulation mean? To me it can mean anything the administrator wants it to be. Resulting in a teacher getting a "U" rating and even removal to the "rubber room" while waiting for the 3020-a charges. You still don't believe it? Well the Verbal Abuse regulations can be found here.

My question is why did the UFT allow both these statements to exist? These statements gives administrators great power to discipline teachers that they don't like. What stops an administrator from abusing his or her power to punish a teacher? Nothing, nothing at all.


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chaz:
Another part of this regulation warns against "language that tends to 'belittle' a student".

Some definitions found for 'belittle' :

1. to make little of a person.
2. to express a negative or low opinion of a person.
3. to find fault with a person.

Under these definitions, do you realize how little it takes to 'belittle' someone? Any kind critisizm, even if entirely fair or valid is open to these interpretations of the word. Student complaints, even the most rediculous, are used by administrators as a weapon to threaten teachers, to put letters in the file, or to instigate verbal abuse charges.

Another part of this regulation warns against "holding a student up to ridicule".

Under this part of the regulation, statements that are intended to be jokes can be made to seem to hold students up to 'ridicule'. Again, student complaints are used to threaten teachers, or put letters in the file which sometimes result in U ratings.

Anonymous said...

In my school, a teacher got written up for "not the content of what a teacher said to a student but the manner that how it was said. The case was made for verbal abuse, a violation of the Chancellor's Reg. A421.

Chaz said...

In other words any word or deed a teacher does can result in the teacher being disciplined.

I can't believe the union allowed these interpretations to be used against their members. A strong union would have never accepted this language.

Anonymous said...

but an A.P. hurt a studnet by dragging him out of a class, parent made the complaint. what happened, NOTHING.

Chaz said...

Anom:

Different rules for administrators. See my articles on the DOE double standard.

Woodlass said...

I heard a couple of teachers complain just today at the D.A. about the "tone" they feel constrained to use with kids out of fear someone might report them. They both said they never show their real feelings, using instead a kind of mechanical tone that is entirely neutral.

Being even-tempered in the classroom is a good thing, but masking your message in fake language you'd never use anywhere else is bad for the kids.

For one thing, some high school students think that as long as your voice is smooth and modulated, they have the right to argue the point with you on the spot. That's wrong. There are times when a dialogue between you and a disruptive student is unacceptable to the max.

Secondly, altering your tone to mask your intent is dishonest. They have the right to know when they are overstepping the lines, and the tone you use is part of the message. Couching these parameters in robo-speech ain't gonna do them no good in the real world.

I'm not condoning any kind of abuse, intimidation or belittlement. Only that when we over-modulate, we send a mixed message. When we mean "Shape up!" it shouldn't come out as "Can I help you set your boundaries, dear?"

Patrick Sullivan said...

Chaz,

I saw the trailer for the Rubber Room film. There's a kid who says something along the lines of I know how to get a teacher in trouble. Have the changes undermined the authority of teachers to manage their classrooms?

Patrick

Woodlass said...

I was waiting for a chance to talk about that particular kid in that particular movie about the rubber room.

He's been at my school for a couple of years. Has always been friendly: big smile, warm greetings. But "off" somehow. He used to walk into our classrooms uninvited whenever he saw we were free, and could just not understand that he needed to leave and be somewhere else. We never could get him to leave easily, it was bizarre. I think he might be bit better this year, probably because he's older.

So to see him in that film clip saying what he said about how to "get" a teacher having experienced so many instances of his strange behavior was startling. It made me wonder if he was, in fact, much more calculating a kid than all his flaky behavior indicated. Perhaps we was pretty darn sophisticated about discipline issues in general. It was surprising, and scary.

Patrick: the shortest answer to your question is that there has been a terrific erosion of our ability to control bad behavior at the HS level. Many kids have just not learned enough skills along the way to get serious about school. They don't know times tables, they can't do punctuation or write sentences. They think it's a game, school, and when bored or frustrated, they frequently mouth off the most horrific stuff at us. And they are never made to apologize - because that part is not in the so-called safety plan. We punish them but do not have the time or resources to re-wire them and undo their unsocial behavior.

A lot of us can convert some of the negative energy some kids have because we are good at what we do. But it takes so much time to do it, maybe a whole semester. They can destroy the learning environment for whole periods if they want to, esp. when they act in consort with a couple of other equally damaged or needy kids.

The best learning years in too many kids' lives are terribly cut into by the ones who are acting out and refusing to just plain grow up and settle down.

Chaz said...

Patrick:

Woodlass is completely right. The Chancellor's regulations have totally eroded the authority of the teacher in the classroom. In fact, a student's accusations all it takes to remove a teacher. I can give you specific examples if you like to talk to some of these teachers. Email me if your interested.

I previously wrote a piece on how little the DOE values a teacher's word and how students and administrators are believed while teachers are not.

Anonymous said...

What about when the rules of administration cause a case of corpral punishment. For example, there is a 10 minute rule--no passes for the first 10 minutes or last 10 minutes of the period or your pass will be confiscated and the teacher given warning. You are like a rock in a hard place when a student asks permission and you follow the rule but the student wets his/her pants??? Help!!!
Wasn't I just following the rule?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Commissioner of Education in Albany should be contacted about these Chancellor's Regulations? It would be in the best interests of the NYS Education Department to have all the school districts in the State, including the NYC Department of Education, adopt local regulations which are harmonious with State regulations.

Anonymous said...

I work in a school where children are regularly threatened and physically abused. I use the term "abuse" quite literally. Students have been locked in closets until they wet themselves, taken into bathrooms and had their noses bloodied during "discussions with staff members", and punched in the stomach. Unfortunately, the accusations are swept under the rug and explained away as temporary poor judgment calls. I have read that some teachers feel the regulations are too strict. I doubt these teachers work in the many schools where students suffer regular abuse at the hands of staff members. The protection of the child is paramount and I would rather have the regulations be overly strict than be permissive of this type of behavior. If these regulations are lifted there will be no recourse against teachers who believe the only way to maintain order in their classroom is through fear.

Unknown said...

While doing bussing in afternoon, student rushing the line to go after smaller student. Yelled for him to not push line. No response, he almost hurt a smaller child I grabbed his coat. He swung at me saying no one touched me
Suspended a day now parent currently does not wanna press corparol punishment but, the principal might.
So next time just let the kid hurt another student.
30 years nothing now possibly this due to a mouthy parent.