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16 New York Teachers Accused Of Sexual Misconduct Still Teaching, City Struggles To Fire Them

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NEW YORK TEACHERS
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. | AP

Sixteen teachers accused of various forms of sexual misconduct are still teaching in New York City schools, according to a New York Education Department investigative report.

One teacher, for example, reportedly bent a student over a desk and thrust his pelvis toward him, saying, "I'll show you what's gay," during a discussion on gay life in prison, The New York Times reports.

Another teacher was accused of grabbing a student's elbow and while handing back a test, telling her, "I'm so proud of you; if it wouldn't get me in trouble, I would kiss you." A third allegedly repeatedly sent text messages to a student and stalked her outside the McDonald's where she worked.

In 14 of the 16 cases of what the New York Daily News calls "pervy teachers," the accused educators are still working with city children, and the city is struggling to fire them: independent arbitrators found wrongdoing, but decided that their offenses were not grounds for firing, and instead issued mild penalties like a fine, suspension or formal reprimand. Two of the teachers were recently reassigned to desk duty, but only after more allegations of wrongdoing.

Under a Freedom of Information Request, the Education Department released records of all 16 cases - including reports by its special commissioner of investigation and the arbitrators' rulings.

"If I had my way, these teachers would no longer be in the classroom," schools chancellor Dennis Walcott told the Daily News. He added that "common-sense reforms" would give him the power to fire teachers who misbehave.

School officials say their hands are tied. Under New York law, tenured teachers have the right to a hearing with an arbitrator before they can be fired, and can appeal an arbitrator's ruling in civil court. While the Department of Education can also appeal an arbitrator's decision to state courts, legal standards for overturning those rulings are very difficult to meet.

On WOR Radio's John Gambling Show Friday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped of the arbitrators' rulings, "maybe if you were a serial ax murderer, you might get a slap on the wrist." He noted that arbitrators, who are collectively chosen by the city and the teachers' union, might have also been driven toward milder penalties in an effort to keep their jobs.

He continued, according to Capital New York, "Some of their rulings don't make any sense. But the theory is that they don't want to be too tough on the union members, 'cause then the union will never allow them to be selected. Now the city has a vote in it as well, but if either one wants to block it they can. And so the allegation is, I don't know whether it's true or not, but the allegation has always been that some of these arbitrators are, not reluctant, just will not impose any penalties."

In the case of Willy Laraque, the teacher that was accused of the "gay" demonstration and remark, Laraque told the Daily News, "It never happened. It was a joke. The kid never testified."

The arbitrator ruled that Laraque's conduct was "unbecoming a professional and constitutes misconduct," but not enough to merit firing the teacher.

The Education Department's report comes on the heels of a separate report that reveals a 35 percent increase in complaints of sexual misconduct involving school employees in the first three months of 2012 over 2011.

To see the full list of the 16 accused New York educators, visit the New York Daily News.

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