According to the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI), there were 5,500 complaints made against educators in 2015 and 26% of them were substantiated or 1,430 cases. SCI investigates complaints of sexual misconduct, criminality, test tampering, or financial mismanagement. Some are serious, like sex with a student or stealing money, while others are not. Regardless, all substantiated complaints by SCI and the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), who investigate issues of corporal punishment and verbal abuse, are placed on a teacher's file as a red flag for anybody considering in appointing the teacher to their school, or as I call it a "scarlet letter".
Unfortunately, even the most minor of incidents such as making a bad joke, disciplining a misbehaving student, or a student misunderstanding a teacher's intentions can lead to a SCI or OSI investigation and if the student has a friend or two to back her up, the allegation is then substantiated. However, just because the two investigative agencies substantiates the allegation, it does not necessarily mean the allegation is true and lead to termination. It depends on what was substantiated and is there real evidence to back it up, not simply hearsay. Moreover, even if the DOE decides to file 3020-a termination charges against the tenured teacher, only the independent arbitrator can decide if the teacher's conduct was egregious enough to warrant termination. For teachers who are not tenured, usually any substantiated allegation by SCI or OSI will lead to the teacher receiving a discontinuance and will make it nearly impossible ever to work for the DOE again.
While the two investigative agencies will claim that they conduct a fair and impartial investigation, the investigations are heavily influenced by three factors and they are;
- Does the Principal like the teacher?
- Does the teacher have previous discipline issues?
- Did the teacher cooperate with the investigators?
......................."NEVER TALK TO SCI"...................
Remember, the default is that investigators assume the teacher is guilty of the allegation and anytime you are scheduled to meet with an investigator, make sure you have proper union representation if its OSI and a lawyer if SCI is the investigative agency. Hopefully, you will never be put into the position that requires taking this advice.