Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The Principal & The SCI Investigation - My Story.
Time and again I have heard naive people ask me why would an SCI Investigator not want to do a fair and independent investigation? The answer is that once SCI takes a case, they have a presumption that the smoke of the accusation means that there must be a fire. In other words if an accusation is made, then it is up to the investigator to substantiate the accusation by any means possible. This article will try to go through my SCI investigative process and the reason the Arbitrator dismissed & discredited the SCI report in my 3020-a hearing.
The most important person in an SCI investigation is the Principal. In my three year experience as a liaison of the Queens Teacher Reassignment Center (TRC) I had heard many stories from teachers. The ones who had SCI investigations for alleged sexual issues where usually sent back to their school if their Principal supported the teacher. By contrast, principals who disliked their teachers would use the SCI investigation process to have 3020-a charges filed against the teacher for alleged sexual misconduct even when there was little or no evidence of such. Of course if a teacher really had a sexual relationship or sexually abused a student then no Principal could save that teacher and nor should they.
It was no secret in my school that the Principal and me did not see "eye to eye" on many issues. I was on the School Leadership Team (SLT) for the last four years and usually voted with the students and parents and against the Principal who was running the school into the ground. I always believed that my Principal's policy of "Principal first, children last" was destroying the school and his poor decision-making skills were hurting the students. In fact, at the end of the school year that I was reassigned. the DOE finally removed the Principal "for cause" but it was too late for me.
The Principal was the same Principal who gave me my 2002 reprimand which the Arbitrator threw out as "unfair and inaccurate" in 2004. The relationship between my Principal and I deteriorated further in the mid 2000's to the point that, with my Chapter Leader's urging, I filled a PERB complaint against my Principal and NYSUT agreed to supply me with a lawyer after carefully reviewing my Principal's actions against me. In front of the PERB mediator, the City lawyers threatened to have me reassigned during the PERB hearings which could take a year or more to conclude. With that threat, it was agreed that the Principal will not target me or practice disparate treatment if I was to drop the PERB charge. Since I didn't want to be reassigned, I reluctantly accepted the deal.
The Principal simply waited until the 2006-07 school year when a student complained to the Guidance Counselor and got the ball rolling by calling SCI. He told SCI some highly inaccurate information to ensure that they would take the case. First, he told SCI that I had inappropriately touched and threatened to kiss a student. He also told them that I was reprimanded previously of such actions which he knew was false. He personally selected students for the DOE to talk to rather than a random selection in the hopes that some of these students will talk trash about me and influence the SCI investigation. Finally, the DOE used a deliberately inaccurate statement I allegedly made and the Daily News used in their article came from the Principal and not the student. "If it won't get me in trouble, I would kiss you".
The SCI Investigator:
The SCI investigator was an ex-police detective and I did not cooperate with him as instructed by my union. When a UFT lawyer looked at the accusations against me she laughed and said are they serious? Who did you piss off? She told me not to worry, their case against me is unreal and frivolous. The SCI investigator actually turned out to be a fairly decent person and strongly hinted to me on his occasional visits to the TRC that the case against me was very weak and he had told the Principal that it might be best to dump a letter into my file then pursue the case due to lack of evidence. Obviously, the Principal thought otherwise since he was able to get rid of me and my salary off the school's payroll. Of course it did not stop the SCI investigator from substantiating the frivolous charges and lying in my "probable cause hearing" by using the DOE's/Principal's deliberately inaccurate statement instead of the actual statement recalled by the student in his report. He also said that the word "kiss" is sexual no matter how one uses it when he realized that he was caught in a lie by the "probable cause Arbitrator".
I ran into the SCI Investigator after my winning the "probable cause hearing" a couple of more times and he told me how shocked he was that they dumped a "probable cause hearing" on me. He also said to me that If he could do the investigation over, he would have come out with a different conclusion. While he didn't say it upfront, he blamed the Principal for the damage done to me. He even told a colleague in the TRC that the charges against me was "bullshit". In his 3020-a testimony the SCI investigator did his job calmly, and coolly, but did not hurt me, especially when we brought up "the statement" and he admitted I used the qualifier of "I'm so proud of you" in the statement.
The student made as many as five conflicting statements, to different people who interviewed her, depending on who she talked to and these conflicting statements were presented as evidence that she was either lying or being manipulated. In her testimony at the 3020-a hearing she would change her testimony to suit what she thought they wanted to hear, including my NYSUT lawyer! It was very obvious to all she didn't want to be there and her testimony was not credible. I even felt sorry for her after her emotional and ever-changing answers to questions by both sides.
The bottom line is that while the Daily News can call me a "pervy teacher" the Arbitrator, when confronted with the evidence, or in the DOE's case, lack of evidence of any "sexual misconduct" could only give me a fine for making a comment that embarrassed the student in front of a class of thirty. Maybe the Daily News need to investigate the connection between principals and SCI that can and do taint the investigation process.
You can read my story Here and Here.