If you can believe the rhetoric the UFT is finally taking seriously its duty to represent members who have been sent to the rubber room. A closer look shows we have a long way to go.
Everyone knows, either through personal experience or through the experience of colleagues of the dreaded “reassignment” to the rubber room. I first came into this system when a well respected and loved teacher was “removed” from Franklin K. Lane High School for an allegation made by a student. Of course, at the time, the teacher did not know anything official about the reassignment.
He was very concerned about his students and wanted to keep them on track toward passing the Global History regents so he called me incessantly to make sure that I was providing them with the best instruction I could. His dedication was incredible.
We also spoke, after a while (he was in the rubber room almost a year) about his experience in purgatory. I couldn’t believe it. He was offered the standard UFT advice….”Don’t worry, you are being paid. Most of all do not speak to anyone about this.”
I asked him how he was going to prepare for his 3020a hearing and he told me that when he was served with charges a NYSUT lawyer would contact him. I advised him that no one waits months (or even years) to investigate a case unless they are in denial or they want to be certain that they are dismissed.
This was almost 10 years ago. After a recent stint in the rubber room I realize not only has nothing fundamentally changed in the way the Union deals with our reassigned members, things are getting worse since the number of reassignments have markedly increased.
How do we currently represent reassigned members?
Chapter Leaders and District Reps generally do not deal with reassigned members issues. This might actually be a good thing since the Union makes no effort to train line leaders on how to handle any of the issues that result in reassignment or charges being drawn. This leaves the member with basically no representation when he or she is reassigned.
When I was in the rubber room last year a member told me “his story” about an allegedly forged medical note. It appeared that after the teacher spoke up about the number of special ed student in his class (he worked in District 75) he was injured by an autistic student. He went to the doctor, who according to the eventual allegations, filled out a note which the teacher changed. The teacher claimed that the note was changed by the doctor. The doctor divulged the teacher’s medical records to DOE investigators which indicated that the note had a different (later) date than the records.
I asked the teacher what contact he had with the doctor and he told me he was specifically told not to talk to him. Did the NYSUT attorney send an investigator or make any attempt to contact the doctor or in any way investigate the matter?
Recently, a NYSUT attorney amazingly told me that there are no investigators and that the attorneys are overwhelmed with cases to provide the defense that our members need.
This might explain why, at a recent 3020a hearing I attended I was not subpoenaed nor had contact with the NYSUT attorney until the night before my testimony.
The only way we, as a Union, tolerate this misrepresentation of our members is because we don’t really care about these members. Just remember, however, the next rubber room reassignment might be for you!