An Interview with Teacher Rights Advocate, Karen Horwitz

Dr. Kathleen Loftus Columnist EdNews.org

As an advocate for school reform, I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Karen Horwitz, Director of NAPTA, the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse.Too often school reformers tend to overlook how so many truly dedicated and caring teachers are stifled, limited, and forced to choose between their careers and their ethics.

When this happened to Karen she didn't merely leave the teaching field while never looking back.Since 1995 she has been championing the cause of teacher abuse throughout the land, while serving as their one beacon of hope and strength, by standing up to a very powerful institution. 

Dr. K:  So Karen, what happened in your life that led you to establish NAPTA?

Karen:I returned to teaching after raising three children and was astonished to discover that not only did the schools not appreciate my maturity, experience, dedication, but they were being run by a bureaucracy that is manipulative, deceitful and punitive to anyone who seeks to put children's needs first.Because I always tried to go the "extra mile" for my students my school leaders began harassing me in an effort to get me to resign.I soon realized that this was a common practice by schools to maintain a "Stepford-like" teaching staff, willing to conduct themselves in lockstep while never caring too much about student outcomes nor making any waves. I observed firsthand teachers' personnel records that were altered, teachers' grades that were changed, as well as teachers who were subjected to numerous false accusations, all for failing to play "the game."I realized that any teachers wishing to resist, but needing to keep their jobs, were helpless to do anything to take a stand against these oppressive practices.I was fortunate enough to be married to a successful attorney, and so, for me, teaching was not my only means of survival.Therefore, recognizing the need for teacher support, I decided to start the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse to address the blatant and widespread abuse of educators.I soon found that abuse of America's teachers is being perpetuated by school leaders and government agencies throughout the nation for their own selfish interests.While NAPTA focuses on teacher abuse, it is really about protecting America's children.As a parent, I felt compelled to use my resources to try to make a difference for the teachers who were being persecuted by their schools for trying to uphold the educational rights their students.Ironically, upholding the educational rights of my students was one of my expectations that led me to choose a career in teaching in the first place.However, given my school district's subsequent attempts to censor my efforts in this regard I decided that I would, instead, work to expose this truth about teacher abuse in America.

Dr. K:  What are you hoping to accomplish by taking a stand against public schools?

Karen:More than merely hoping, our members are seeking to expose the pervasive corruption that is the framework of our nation's schools by building a louder and more widespread network of educator voices that will finally be heard.We realize that it is a difficult but necessary struggle that involves a national paradigm shift.Not unlike some recent church abuse controversies, wherein it took years for the victims of priest abuse to finally be heard, convincing America's legislators and that our schools could actually be so corrupt is just as difficult to sell.

Dr. K:  What types of assistance and support does NAPTA provide to teachers?

Karen: NAPTA's purpose is less about providing services to teachers and more about growing a larger and more expansive voice that will eventually be heard by those who can truly make a difference.Finding opportunities for our members to tell their stories on the Oprah Show or other media outlets, for example, is currently our mission.We are seeking to reach out to change agents in order to make America more aware of how school leaders undermine good and dedicated teachers.We are seeking to forge a path between those willing to tell their stories and those in power who are willing to listen.There is an enormous amount of red tape currently preventing most teachers from speaking out, while offering them little protection from retaliation.  We do assist our members in networking with one another, and we help them navigate the corruption within their own schools that sometimes includes helping to them develop a realistic picture of their current circumstances.NAPTA has created a refuge of hope for abused teachers that never existed before.Senator Barack Obama's term, "Audacity of hope" seems to suit us.We have lots of hope derived from our common outrage.

 

Dr. K:  What are some typical teacher abuse issues?

 

Karen:They are numerous.School leaders regularly lie and manipulate the truth with the help of their State Education Agencies and even their teachers' unions that drive many good teachers out of their jobs.Targeted teachers are frequently set up to fail by their schools' deliberately overfilling their classes with students who should never be placed together.Teachers are pitted against each other in calculated efforts to undermine collegiality.New and unsuspecting teachers are often assigned unmanageable and inappropriate teaching assignments.Many teachers are deliberately deprived of needed teaching materials, hoping they will just break down and purchase their own.Untold numbers of teachers operate in a state of perpetual despair due to constant harassment that eventually erodes their ability to teach.Teachers who fall out of favor are derided and retaliated against, permanently ruining their reputations and their careers.The list goes on as school leaders continue to do whatever it takes to force out teachers who resist viewing their students as merely "numbers."School leadership has little to fear when it comes to undermining their teachers' efforts to uphold their students' rights.The schools win the majority of the Due Process lawsuits, using taxpayer funds to defend any legal cases brought against them.

Dr. K: What are some ways you have helped teachers assert their rights with their schools?

Karen:The reality is that teachers have few legal rights. Even Federal laws, such as protection against age discrimination and retaliation, are not often upheld for teachers.This was shown in my own case against my former school district employer, which is why I have now brought it to the Illinois Supreme Court, to further expose this truth to the public.Since NAPTA can do little to help individual teachers assert their rights, we continue to work to bring their collective cries to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hope that it will eventually be recognized that teacher exploitation and abuse is neither legal nor in the public's best interest.The prevailing court opinion, currently, is that school leaders should be accorded unlimited power and latitude in all of their decisions in order to maintain "good" schools.Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "I have, however, decided to join the Court's disposition of this case . . . because I believe that we should presume that public school officials are properly performing their difficult responsibilities under this important statute."Sadly, given that many educational leaders are not operating properly, this roadblock to teachers' legal remedies represents just one more example of their continued stifling and abuse.So, while we do not help teachers assert their individual rights, we do help them analyze their current limitations and evaluate their options, which, too often, are rather limited and futile.

Dr. K:What are some ways NAPTA is working to eradicate teacher abuse?

Karen: First, it remains difficult to eradicate something that the general public and the courts do not yet believe actually exists.The chief way NAPTA is working to eradicate teacher abuse is by working to make its existence a reality to the general public, along with its negative effects on America's students.By building our membership, we continue to build a larger and more vocal outcry about this very important issue.

Dr. K:  Are there some teacher abuse issues that also affect parents and students?

 

Karen:Actually, there are few teacher-abuse issues that do NOT affect parents, as well as students, along with the rest of the general public.Whenever a decision is made to dismiss a teacher for taking a stand to protect children's educational rights, everyone loses.Furthermore, think of the impact on children watching their beloved teachers being targeted.Students are often aware of what is going on but are powerless to do anything about it, while observing their less caring teachers, those who merely "go along to get along," being held in higher esteem.Needless to say, this results in children being taught that opportunism is more important than good citizenship.

Dr. K:  Most teachers are union members.Why can't they just turn to their unions for help?

Karen:This brings me to one of the key causes of the problem: America's teachers' unions are in collusion with school leadership and so also equally corrupt.The union leaders have learned to play the game in order to stay IN the game.While collecting hefty union dues, they sell out their teachers as sacrificial lambs in order to maintain their organization's place in the "system."While they do occasionally taking a stand to protect the termination of a truly bad teacher, they will rarely do anything to protect their members against ongoing teacher abuse.Much of teachers' union "protection" is actually little more than "smoke and mirrors" as most teachers soon learn.The few union leaders who have refused to compromise their own integrity have actually suffered similar abuses themselves.With so much power being permitted at the top of America's educational system, anyone who gets in the way loses, and this includes the unions.Thus, the reality is that teachers' unions have little effect on preventing teacher abuse.

Dr. K:  How do some of the current special education laws affect teachers' potential for being abused by their schools?

Karen:Essentially, teacher abuse is a tool used by educational administrators to keep teachers in line.Much of being "in line" means neither giving the parents what they want, nor the students what they need, so that the maximum amount of school funds may be retained by those in power.Special Education laws, if actually followed as they are written, would cost school districts monies they would prefer to keep in their own pockets.There are a number of ways schools receive kickbacks for hard materials, but when they have to hire an aide to assist a child's learning, there is no kickback potential in that.America's "EducRAT$," a term coined by NAPTA to signify corrupt educational leaders, are a powerful group that fights hard to spend school funds only as it benefits them, not their students.Any teachers who advocate for their students are this group's biggest targets, while those who take a stand for their students with disabilities only further raise the stakes.

Dr. K:  Is there anything parents can do to support their children's teachers to their school administrators?

Karen:Unfortunately, usually not.School climates are very political, and so when parents stand up for a teacher, the teacher will often become an even bigger target, simply for attracting unwanted attention.Schools seem to prefer some degree of animosity and disconnect between parents and teachers.When a teacher is well-liked by parents this is often seen as a sign that the teacher is too aligned with "the enemy," and so at risk of "giving away the store," which, in turn, often compels a campaign to "abuse" them out of the system.

Teacher abuse is a control mechanism borne largely out of a need to withhold school funds.Parents and students, therefore, are the real victims of teacher abuse, while teachers are the convenient scapegoats.EducRAT$' primary goal is to hold onto the maximum dollars, regardless of how this deprives students of an education, while intimidating everyone into backing off and not daring to question them.Too often, parents who speak out against their school's misconduct can expect that their children will be harassed in some subtle ways, as well.I have personally witnessed children being denied inclusion on special trips and other opportunities, based on false allegations, as retaliation against their parents who dared to defend their rights.  Parents would be better off working with NAPTA to help us expose school corruption, since bringing their complaints to the schools has little effect.The playing field is anything but level, as the school leader "bully system," is both powerful and extensive.Eventually, the only answer will be to implore those with even greater power over schools, the parents, to join with us in massive numbers to help put an end to self-serving and abusive school bureaucracies.Parents are currently bombarded with propaganda from both the media and the schools that is designed to portray teachers as the enemy, while the parents and teachers remain conveniently segregated from each other.One of our core goals is to tear down this wall in order to shift the schools' power to what is truly in the best interest of both our students and the general public.

Dr. K:  What are some steps you would recommend teachers take to prevent abuse by their administrators?

 

Karen:Sadly, teachers, must simply continue to go along to get along, or else resign from teaching.There is almost no way that for an individual teacher to forge a lone path of advocating for their students and still survive in this unbalanced system where they have no power.In fact, even while NAPTA continues to work to convince those in power of the need for change, we are, hopefully, helping to spread the word to stakeholders toward eventually forcing the hands of America's corrupt educational leaders.Most teachers entered the profession believing they could truly help children.Unfortunately, more than half leave disillusioned after only two years. Those who manage to hang in there, believing things will eventually change, often find out too late that their situation is hopeless, but are, by then, too fearful to speak out, and so the cycle of deception and apathy continues. America's schools have recently begun recruiting unsuspecting teachers from other countries to fill this shortage.This is actually sad when you consider that fact that if every person in America with valid teaching credentials were currently working in the field that America would have no teacher shortage.By working to spread the truth about the teaching profession, NAPTA seeks to compel educational leadership to have the courage to do what is right.

Dr. K: Is there anything else you would like to share with teachers, administrators, or parents?

Karen:Don't give up hope.To do so means giving up on America's kids.As bad as things may be, they only got this way because few have ever challenged schools' undeserved power.Until NAPTA was founded in 2002, few had come forward to speak out about teacher intimidation, nor of school leaders' abuse of their power.Absolute power almost always corrupts. America's current educational system is not unlike Enron or any other large institutions that became too self-serving with insufficient and corrupt oversight.By joining NAPTA you will add to the collective voice seeking to be heard by those with the power to change both America's perception and laws.No other government body in America would likely be permitted to remain in the public's favor for so long with so much powerand so little accountability. America's schools are run exclusively by government bureaucrats who continue to deceive the voting public with an illusion of care.Corruption of our schools continues from year to year largely because of a perception that only those with "superior" knowledge can make appropriate decisions for America's students.Nothing could be further from the truth.At least with the Enron scandal there was a governmental oversight agency in place that was eventually able to stop their public exploitation.There is currently no comparable government agency overseeing America's schools.NONE.While, as I mentioned, most judges simply decline to hear school corruption cases on the premise that school and government education administrators are above reproach, this defies what our forefathers warned about the potential abuse of too much power.Thus, NAPTA seeks to continue to grow a voice loud enough to compel the Supreme Court and State legislators to hear how America's corrupt school leaders have overtaken all sense of fairness and decency in our schools.It is only then that America can begin a renewal process that will finally bring true accountability to our educational system.I am in the process of compiling a book that explains the "how's" and "why's" of school corruption in greater detail.It is a very complex paradigm that has been difficult for many trusting citizens to grasp.Corrupt educational leaders both know and count on this fact.Too many schools are led by an "education mafia" of sorts, organized to maintain and perpetuate control over those with less power, with numerous agencies and even the courts serving as their unwitting accomplices.  Uncooperative "targets" are eliminated and destroyed them both.I'm hoping that my book will help to further connect the dots for the general public in order to establish a greater understanding of this deeply ingrained problem, while compelling the media to conduct the type of investigation that is so desperately needed for the sake of our nation's educational future.

Dr. K:  How can teachers get in touch with you?

Karen:They may email me at teacherkh@aol.com or they can visit our website at www.EndTeacherAbuse.org and complete our membership form.Membership is free, and is not limited only to teachers.NAPTA's mission is to force the corruption out of our nation's schools, for which everyone stands to gain.Hundreds of thousands of dollars are expended each year by our nation's schools to try to silence people like me.My own case against my former school-district employer is still pending in the courts and has reportedly generated over $400,000 in legal fees paid by the taxpayers.Sadly, too many corrupt administrators are all too eager to do whatever it takes to keep unaccounted-for school monies in their own pockets rather than being forced to operate truly accountable schools, even if this results in enormous legal costs.It is important that anyone who cares about eliminating school corruption join with us in one unified voice, but please do not let our name fool you.Besides teachers, we have many honest school administrators and others who have joined us in our cause, as well.By preventing abuse of teachers and other educators we can finally take back our schools from those who are holding them and our children's education hostage.Losing dedicated, high-quality teachers is the number one threat to America's future.As long as parents and others are convinced thatit is the teachers who are to blame for school failure, or that teachers having any power is a negative, the EducRAT$ will continue to reign supreme.

Dr. K:Thank you for sharing your very important and often overlooked perspective.

Karen:It is my pleasure.Thank you for allowing me to share NAPTA with your readers.I know that you, too, are an outspoken educator who has experienced educator abuse firsthand, and so you understand the importance of NAPTA's quest.Thanks for being one more shining light on our path toward eventual success for all students.

Dr. K:You are quite welcome!

Addendum to my original interview with Karen:

Please share with your readers that in December I was denied a hearing with the Illinois Supreme Court for my retaliatory teacher termination case, and so now have only one last resort -- to file a Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court.Unfortunately, I learned that in order to do so I am required to attach every prior court order to this writ, which means literally hundreds of pages.Given their cost of $30 per page to format and print, I'm looking at between $5,000 and $8,000 just for the orders alone, not to mention my personal legal costs that already exceed $300,000.It is hard to justify one family paying this much money to protect our nation's family values when few others will get involved.Our government enjoins with our schools in confidently holding America's parents and students hostage, since few can afford to stay in the fight for long.This is truly an issue of the destruction of family values via the schools.An organization against court corruption, Judicial Watch, already turned me down because even though they acknowledge that teachers may receive unfair treatment, they believe the problem in the schools stems from overly-indulgent parents.  I was unable to convince them that this is what the EducRAT$ want the public to believe.  I was previously rejected for assistance from the ACLU, along with several of our members, because they did not perceive our cause to be sufficiently widespread.  (I find it hard to say that without choking, since I am not sure how widespread were the cases of Anna Nicole or Larry Flynt!)  I will continue to seek to bring my case as far as possible, in order to show beyond a doubt that teachers are part of America's oppressed underclass.

Monday

January 15th, 2007

Dr. Kathleen P. Loftus

Columnist EducationNews.org

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