Morning Joe | July 30, 2012
>>> what about this, huh? the one and only.
>> the one and only.
>> the most fantastic thing about monday so far.
>> i'm so happy to be back with you guys.
>> my favorite white house correspondent in those days, it was you. you were tough, skeptical, hard hitting, from the old school of great, tough white house correspondents . you're the best.
>> that was a good time but i'm happy to have left those days behind.
>> and by the way, tough in print, too. campbell brown , she takes on the teachers union in her op-ed in today's " wall street journal ." he writes in part, in the last five years in new york city , 97 tenured teachers or school employees have been charged with he can s sexual misconduct . our public school children are defenseless. under current new york law an accusation is first vetted by an independent investigator. then the case goes before an employment arbitrator. the local teachers union and school district together choose the arbitrators who in turn are paid up to $1,400 per day. therein lies the problem. for many arbitrators, their livelihood depends on pleasing the unions, whether the united federation of teachers in new york city or other local unions, and the unions, believing that they are helping the cause of teachers by being weak on sexual predators , prefer suspensions and fiennes and not disha m -- dismissal. i have to tell you and i'm sure i'm not alone, when you pick up the paper too often and read about another public school teacher in new york accused of having sex with a kid or things like that, it's stunning that very little happens to that teacher or that it takes so long for the teacher to be thrown out of the door and into jail.
>> as you pointed out, it said in the piece, 97 tenured teachers or school employees over the last five years, and in the really bad dayscases, the police come in, it's a criminal case . where it's a problem is the gray area , where it's sexual harassment , where a teacher is engaging in sex you'ual banter. the process by design favors the teachers over the students consistently. there are examples. i got interested in this just by following the local papers. the tabloids have covered this a lot over the last few years, but i went back and read through the arbitrators' reports, the independent shall arbitrators. the justification they find is let the teacher off the hook is amazing. one example, this teacher found guilty of asking a young girl to give him a strip tease , of engaging in sexual banter with kids, of harassing them, sexually harassing them by text, on facebook, the arbitrator concluded since the teacher had actually solicited sex from the stunts it only warranted a suspension. there are multiple examples of this. they can't be fired essentially.
>> what percent, you mentioned 97% or whatever you want to use as your base, what percent of these cases end up with the teacher being dismissed as opposed to being suspended for sent back?
>> percentagewise, i don't know. i can tell you that 16 in new york city , 16 teachers right now the chancellor is trying to hold who he believes should have been fired and haven't been because of this process.
>> trying to hold.
>> trying to keep from getting back into the classroom. two of them are repeat offenders. and there's nothing you can do. so let's take it beyond -- we're all horrified by this as parents and human beings . but as a political issue, there's legislation in albany that would address this. there's one lone senator who is sponsoring it that would keep the system as it is, but let an arbitrator only make a recommendation to whoever is in charge, be it the school clans lor in new york or outside of new york the school district . with due process according to collective bargaining treatments so the teacher could appeal any decision, give that person the final say. only one person has signed onto this legislation. democrats in albany.
>> where is the head of the eft? what is he saying?
>> the uft, which is the teacher's unifor new york city basically says we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to cases of sexual misconduct but they have a narrow definition of what that means. so they don't define these things as sexual misconduct , but i certainly wouldn't want my child in that classroom. would you?
>> well, the uft, united federation of teachers , has a statement about this. they not only believes in zero tolerance on the issue of sexual misconduct but we also proudly put in place the most stringent rules of any school district across the state governing such situations including provisions that go far beyond state law , blah, blah, blah, blah.
>> how do the cases fall through the cracks? how is this happening? if there's a zero tolerance policy ?
>> we have a lot of questions for you but katty kay has a question first off the bat from washington.
>> campbell, it's katty, this is a great piece. congratulations. i'm so glad you've written it. i wanted to get a sense of when you spoke to teachers in schools, what they made of this process and what they thought should be happening? were those teachers who are teaching in schools and then somebody comes back who has done something like asked a kid to do a strip tease , do they have any leverage at all?
>> they have no leverage, but they feel very strongly about it. i mean, obviously the vast majority of teachers in our public school system are amazing teachers and they don't want the bad apples in the classroom any more than students do, than parents do, and they believe -- i quoted a few in the piece -- that it's damaging their credibility, and obviously the credibility of the union. just, again, as a student of politics, i don't get it. it's like -- it's dumb. it's a dumb strategy. why dig your heels on an issue like this as we are going through clearly this transformational period i believe in education reform nationwide where the unions should want to have a seat at the table with some degree of credibility to have an argument, a debate over the things they care about.
>> why doesn't somebody sue the union? that will end the argument. once they become defendants in a civil case they will have to pay the damages when there's been improper behavior by a child.
>> that's what's happening in some of these cases. they are being litigated, but for the school 's chancellor to appeal this decision and take it to the next level after an arbitrator makes a decision, the standard is so high it's almost impossible for them to win the cases.
>> let me ask you about the school chancellor and the chain of command . what happens in the chain of command , teacher is accused of something, due process begins. teacher to principal to school chancellor, baing to teacher, you're out.
>> what the union will sayteachers' unio n will say is that there are often unfounded accusations. obviously a kid gets a bad grade on a test, they get mad at their teachers, they can say crazy things. the first time an accusation is made, it goes to an independent investigator of some kind. sometimes they'll bring in an independent law firm to look at the accusation, interview everybody, make sure there is something there before it even goes to the next level. so until those accusations or charges have been substantiated, it doesn't even go to the arbitrator. then it would go before this arbitrator chose bin tn by the unions and the city, and the arbitrator has the final say. under this administration, they would take the issue a step further and have the chancellor here in new york , school district , people around the state say at the end of the day , the buck stops with this issue. this is what the legislation hasn't dealt with in the past, because now the teachers can engage with kids an entirely different way, obviously through social media , so they're putting bans in play at a lot of schools preventing teachers -- it's funny, because it should be a way for teachers to engage in a good way to students, to be able to reach out to them. in fact, it's been a problem, so they're telling teachers not to contact students via facebook or anywhere else.
>>> katty kay , thanks for joining us. we appreciate it. chuck todd joins the conversation. you're watching " morning joe " brud brewed by starbuck's. hey america, even