Termination reversals after 3020-a hearings are extremely rare, but given the right circumstances and a "hanging" arbitrator and you just might get your case reversed. So is the case of Beverly Riley.
On September 21, 2006, Riley, a fifteen year elementary school teacher at P.S. 28, allegedly approached a nine-year old student who was in the hallway after school. As she approached the child, who was waiting for her family to pick her up, Riley allegedly grabbed the girl, pulled her to the wall and slapped her on the left side of the face. The incident was reported to the principal, OSI investigated and Riley was charged with corporeal punishment. A second charge of corporal punishment was preferred against Riley for an incident allegedly occurring against another student on October 4, 2006.
After a five day hearing the arbitrator dismissed the October 4, 2006 incident but sustained the first incident and imposed the penalty of termination. In his finding the arbitrator noted Riley's fifteen year unblemished record but found it insignificant due to the devastating impact on the child.
The arbitrator wrote "even one proven incident of corporal punishment can have a devastating impact on the involved student, and justifies the imposition of severe discipline. . .[s]tudents and parents need to know that the Department will not tolerate teachers using physical force to discipline students, even where the incident of corporal punishment was isolated and the only bruise was 'on the inside'."
On appeal Justice Saliann Scarpulla of New York Supreme Court found that the arbitrator had gone too far. One slap does not indicate the pattern of misconduct that deserves the most severe penalty. Besides, the child admitted she was not injured by the incident..
The Court ordered Riley be reinstated and the matter be sent to another arbitrator for a penalty consistent with the Court's decision.
A copy of the September 13, 2010 decision can be obtained here.