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Mayor Says Arbitrators Would Give Ax Murderer "Slap on the Wrist”

By Jill Colvin | April 6, 2012 4:49pm
Mayor Bloomberg has been deeply critical of the barriers to firing bad teachers.
Mayor Bloomberg has been deeply critical of the barriers to firing bad teachers.
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Flickr/Edward Reed

MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that some school arbitrators are so bent against firing bad teachers that they’d give “a slap on the wrist” to an ax murderer.

Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott have long railed against the teachers’ union for fighting to maintain a system that they say makes it near-impossible for the city to fire even terrible teachers.

Several outlets identified 16 teachers Friday that had engaged in questionable sexual activity with students, but remain employed by the Department of Education despite attempts to terminate, including one teacher who allegedly thrust into a male student from behind, while saying, “I’ll show you what is gay."

“Maybe if you were a serial ax murderer, you might get a slap on the wrist," Bloomberg, who has been butting heads with the United Federation of Teachers, told WOR’s John Gambling during his weekly radio interview when asked about the reports. "I don't want to overstate that, but..."

According to rules agreed upon by the city and union, if the Department of Education wants to fire a teacher, it must initiate a process that ends in a hearing, which is decided by an independent arbitrator jointly selected by both the UFT and the DOE.

But Bloomberg said arbitrators are often biased toward teachers.

“The allegation’s always been that some of these arbitrators are — not reluctant — just will not impose any penalties,” he charged.

“The theory is they don’t want to be too tough on the union members, ‘cause then the union will never allow them to be selected.”

Bloomberg did not explain why the arbitrators would be any more sympathetic to union members than the DOE.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew rejected the mayor's assertions.

"The UFT supports a full, fair review by an independent hearing officer of any accusations of inappropriate sexual contact with students, and a zero-tolerance policy for those convicted of serious misconduct after a fair and impartial hearing," he said.

In the 2010-2011 school year, 37 of the 223 teachers cases were brought against were eventually terminated, according to DOE numbers.