By Victor Skinner
TRENTON, N.J. – A New Jersey state senator has introduced legislation that would streamline the process for firing teachers who abuse or bully students.
A lot of streamlining would have to be done.
Last year EAGnews developed a flowchart outlining New Jersey’s teacher termination process, a convoluted series of steps that can take up to five years and cost school districts six figures in legal fees.
The new legislation, introduced by state Sen. Diane Allen, would drastically shorten the process for investigating and dismissing school staff accused of intimidation, harassment or bullying of students.
She was inspired by victims who recently gained national attention by using hidden devices to record classroom abuse, PhillyBurbs.com reports.
Stuart Chaifetz, whose 10-year-old autistic son was abused by school staff, said he was left with few options when he noticed that something wasn’t right at school.
“Schools are supposed to be fertile ground where children can grow into healthy individuals. But I saw my son changing,” Chaifetz said, according to the news site. “I did what I did out of desperation.”
Gloucester County student Julio Artuz, 15, said he recorded verbal abuse from his teacher to help other students who are undoubtedly in a similar situation.
“I just wanted it to stop. I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I felt, which was the lowest I ever felt in my life,” Artuz said. “It wasn’t once a month. It was every day.”
Sen. Allen would require school anti-bullying specialists to quickly investigate allegations and report to the superintendent within 10 days.
If there is compelling evidence to support abuse claims, school boards would be required to file tenure charges or immediately fire the school employee responsible if they’re not tenured, PhillyBurbs.com reports.
Allen’s bill would require the commissioner of the state Department of Education to rule on a tenured employee’s case within 30 days.
“The vast majority of teachers care deeply about their students, but there are a few who need to be removed, and they need to be removed quickly,” Allen said at a Thursday press conference introducing the legislation, PhillyBurbs.com reports.
We couldn’t agree more.
Officials with the New Jersey Education Association predictably balked at the proposed changes. They claim to have a better plan that would somehow shorten the termination process by adding arbitrators to the equation.
What an odd suggestion. From our experience, arbitration is a long, expensive process that would do nothing to achieve the type of goals that Allen has in mind.
“It’s not good policy to remove due process,” NJEA Communications Director Steve Wollmer told PhillyBurbs.com. “The answer isn’t to jeopardize people’s right to a fair dismissal.”
Maybe he should explain the union’s self-serving position to abused students who cry themselves to sleep each night.