Debate: Teacher Sexual Misconduct in NYC

Twitter erupted in a debate yesterday between Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and journalist Campbell Brown about due process for cases in which teachers are accused of sexual misconduct involving students.

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  1. Things began with Brown's Wall Street Journal op-ed in support of pending legislation in New York that would give school boards more say over firings in such instances. (The AFT's New York City affiliate is called the United Federation of Teachers, or UFT.)
  2. The president of the AFT argued that the op-ed was misleading, and pointed to the city's teacher-contract language to make her case:
  3. Weingarten repeatedly referenced the "Feinberg recommendations," a document AFT commissioned and later adopted recommending expedited due process for teachers accused of malfeasance. (Here's the catch: State law governs malfeasance and due process, and no state appears to have put the recommendations into law.) Brown was not impressed:
  4. Weingarten pointed to Campbell's political connection, through her husband, to Republican candidate Mitt Romney, earning a counter-charge of sexism from Brown.
  5. StudentsFirstNY, an offshoot of an education-advocacy group run by Weingarten foe Michelle Rhee, also got into the game. It later emailed its massive list of members, asking them to enter the debate in support of Brown.
  6. Meanwhile, the president of the Shanker Institute, a think tank affiliated with the AFT, pressed for Brown to detail her husband's relationship with StudentsFirstNY. (He sits on its board.)  This lack of disclosure was enough to earn a post from Media Matters.
  7. Much of the debate focused on the role of the city's arbitrators, jointly selected by district and union. Critics of their performance focused on current penalties that, they argued, are far too light.
  8. But the AFT had its supporters, too.
  9. What impact do you think the debate will have on the New York legislation and similar proposals in other states? Post a comment on Education Week's @TeacherBeat blog, at edweek.org/go/teachbeat
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