Parents of Abused Children Join Fight Vs. NY Teacher Tenure

Parents of two Queens students are joining a lawsuit brought by Campbell Brown that seeks to overturn New York’s tenure laws, according to reports from the New York Post.

The Washington Free Beacon Staff writes that these parents say science teacher Richard Parlini abused children in his school. Worse, Parlini was allowed to stay in his position in spite of the fact that he used corporal punishment uncovered by investigators, with cases of both verbal abuse and corporal punishment were confirmed by the Department of Education.  A fine of $2,500 was levied on Parlini along with a training course.

Brown, founder of the Partnership for Educational Justice, said, “These two cases make it crystal clear that New York state’s teacher-discipline system is in desperate need of an overhaul.”

The New York City Parents Union, led by president Mona Davids from the Bronx, and Sam Pirozzolo, vice-president and father of two from Castleton Corners, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit Davids v. New York, filed in July, according to Diane C. Lore of the Staten Island Advance.

Partnership for Educational Justice, founded by former CNN news correspondent Campbell Brown, has thrown its support behind Wright v. State of New York, filed in Albany in August on behalf of seven New York state parents.

“We object to ‘outsiders’ like Campbell Brown coming into New York City and saying we parents don’t know how to speak for ourselves and for our children,” Pirozzolo fumed.

John Collins, representing Brown’s group, in a letter said:

“Let’s send a message to those who are watching (that) we stand together as parents in opposition to laws that benefit adults and hurt our children.”

The earlier positive result for the anti-tenure case in California, Vergara vs. California, seemed to be paving the way for the success of the Davids vs. New York case.  But the ongoing drama between Davids and Brown may invalidate their shared legal stance.  Brown said that she and her group just wanted to join with Davids and her group. Davids says that Brown began a “bullying campaign” against her.

An opinion article for the New York Daily News by Tim Daly says that the hard truth is that the very laws that were put in place to protect teachers are hurting students by allowing unskilled or even abusive teachers to keep their positions.  This is chipping away at the trust in public schools which has been in place for many years.  Parents can no longer trust that the doors of opportunity will be opened for them by their teachers, and Daly says that teachers suffer as well since the entire profession has been defined by its tolerance of the few people who should not be in the profession.

Daly says tenure laws should be kept, but they should be improved.  He calls for three basic changes:

– Teachers should have to spend more than just three years proving that they deserve tenure.  A consistent track record need to be established in those years and tenure should be able to be revoked if there are two or more years of poor performance later in a teacher’s career;

– The entire process of due process should last no longer than 90 days.  Hearings for the teacher whose position may be terminated should be limited to one day per teacher;

– Even though some teachers are just not cut out for the job, there are some who might be a better fit in another school.  Instead of ending a teacher’s career, think creatively about the teacher applying for other education-centered jobs.  Modernize tenure so that it can be a tool for upholding high standards, not undermining them;

Daly is the president of The New Teacher Project.