Wednesday, May 14, 2008

All the News That's Fit to Print

Lately the rubber room has become a hot news story. The big part of the story has been over the amount of money being spent to pay teachers who are not doing anything. Everyone is finally admitting that it is a broken system. Joel Klein feels the union is causing this problem, the UFT feels it is Klein and the principals who are using the system to get rid of people they can't get rid of legally. The Daily News seems to feel that most of the people in the rubber room are guilty so they should be gotten rid of. No one reports on how many people in the rubber room are ultimately found innocent. If they did there would probably be a bunch of statements to the effect that so few people are guilty because of UFT trickery and a bad contract that makes it impossible to get rid of bad people.

In general politicians blame evil lawyers for their own shortcomings. If police can't convict someone it is the defense lawyers fault. If corporations are forced to pay large claims for injured people, it is the lawyers fault. If doctors are convicted of malpractice, it is the lawyers fault. Of course cops plant evidence to quickly close cases, innocent people are sentenced to the death penalty, corporations hide bad things about their products to increase profits and almost no doctor is ever removed for being incompetent. Yet it is all the lawyers fault that these people are held accountable.

Government has deep pockets and can therefore often wins just because it can outlast individuals. It often doesn't matter that a person is found innocent if they are financially or psychologically devastated by defending them self. Teachers appear to be screened from the financial part because they have the UFT to defend them. Unless the UFT does a bad job.

The reason that the rubber room is in the news is that there are a group of people who have decided to sue the UFT for not defending them. These same people have reached out to NPR and have helped create a documentary about the rubber room. This is ultimately the only power that people have against government or large unions.

The part that no one seems to want to talk about is the decision to devote so little resources to solving the issues around the rubber room teachers. It takes months before you are even charged and then it takes months or years before a trial is even set. While you are waiting you go through a series of grievance steps that are a joke and that I would suggest should be eliminated except they do give you an opportunity to get out of the room for a day.

Most rubber room cases could be solved quickly if someone would actually investigate. No one is suggesting that teachers who endanger kids should be in a classroom, but in many cases this is not the issue. The first woman I met in the rubber room had been accused of falsifying a doctors note. This did not endanger kids and should not have been a reason to remove her from a classroom. On the surface this would seem to be a pretty easy case to investigate. You call the doctor and find out if the note was forged. If he/she says it wasn't the case is over. This took eighteen months to solve. In all of that time this teacher was kept out of the classroom. And yet it is the teacher that is blamed not the systemic failure of the DoE to resolve cases quickly.

I am outraged by the waste of money that is used to support the rubber room. But I know who is to blame, the Klein-Weingarten deal that created the absurd system now in place. Lets hold the people who created this system responsible for this waste of money.


NYC Educator said...

Well-said and I couldn't agree more. It's remarkable how inefficient and inequitable this system is. I can't believe the things I read about it, and the incredible neglect of the people who report on it for mass media.

Chaz said...

Good post. I have wrote about the DOE/UFT agreement in a previous post. I think the group you are talking about is

Chaz said...

Take a look at my April 16th post, you might find it interesting

moriah said...

In April of 2006, when the Principal of my school was in the process of framing one of the teachers, I became personally interested in the term "rubber room"--because that seemed to be my colleague's fate. She speant more than a year there on ridiculously false charges. She is now teaching in another school. (I posted her story under the title, "If a President can LIe, so can a Principle").

I started searching for information to see if our Principal was the only one behaving like this. I googled the term "rubber room" and found your blog. I kept googling and eventually found Ed Notes and other dissenting voices.

The following school year (2006-2007) I was targeted for the first "U" rating of my carreer.

For some reason, pain and injustice are much easier to bear if you know you are not alone. There are support groups for almost everything except Victims of Unfair, Immoral Principals.

The blogosphere is the only place where I found the information and support that I needed to keep fighting. I didn't even know what a blog was until then. I started my own blog as a result.

I suspect that your blog, "Life in the Rubber Room", had a similar effect on many other people besides me.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that Randi Weingarten agrees with your observations about the abuse of due process,( timeliness, use of "witnesses," investigative protocols, the petty vindictiveness of some principals, the hostile actions against some whistleblowers, the lack of proportion and consistency of "punishment," the bullying of the DOE, the waste of resources ( financial and inellectual) and the "systemic failure" of the DOE in regard to the rubber rooms. I know that there is serious, ongoing, multi-fronted action by the UFT to bust the rubber rooms as they now exist. Unfortunately the union does not control the government and legal system just as it doesn't control the media. It sounds condescending to use that tired phrase about "sharing your pain," but the truth is that there is far more widespread and deep empathy felt by the union for its members in the rubber rooms than some people realize.

ed notes online said...

Throughout the 3 years ICE people were on the Exc bd the rubber room issue was raised constantly. We started telling people to attend these meetings to put on pressure.
Until this occurred the UFT didn't know how to spell rubber room.

When we raised the issue of expediting the case of people who wanted them to be dealt with quickly at a UFT Exec bd meeting a few years ago, Randi attacked us claiming we were countering to what people might want. They sang a different tune at the last DA.

When Jeff Kaufman asked for the UFT to hire investigators to do an independent investigation for the teachers instead of leaving it to the DOE or Dept of Investigation he was attacked.

But the last commenter is selfserving and excuse making. Randi and the UFT are great at feeling your pain. But I can site many examples of people who need immediate help from the UFT and don't get it.

Fidgety said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fidgety said...

Thank you for your honest take on the rubber rooms. I have been in the rr for 2 months after ALMOST losing a child at dismissal. The child was found immediately but the principal and AP saw fit that I should be removed because I am "a danger to children." I am no writer, but I have also started a blog out of frustration. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen today's Daily News? Class refuses to take yet another standardized test and the teacher is being fired.

Anonymous said...

I just found this site. I've been in the rubber room for 1 year for a case that could be resolved in school by the administration. Some people leave or retire after 3 to 5 years of reclusion but we still have newcomers. This is a waist of taxpayers' money and time. Too bad!

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