Anyone with school-aged children would like to believe that the era when sexually abusive teachers went unpunished is over. In recent years, allegations have surfaced that one of New York’s most prestigious private schools allowed a pattern of sexual abuse to occur for decades, but the abuse was alleged to have occurred from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
It can be easy to think that teachers who are caught displaying inappropriate behavior in this day and age are swiftly punished and kept away from students. Unfortunately, an advocacy group says that’s not the case in New York City public schools.
The Parents’ Transparency Project, headed by a former network anchor, alleges that the schools have a disciplinary system that could allow abusive staff members to keep their jobs. Data that the group obtained show that since 2007, New York City school officials tried to fire 128 school employees for inappropriate relationships with students or sexual misconduct at school. They succeeded in terminating just 33 of those employees.
According to the New York Daily News, teachers were allowed to continue in the classroom despite the following conduct:
- A teacher told a student that he loved her and had dreamed about her. He showed up at her house. After a hearing, an arbitrator found that the teacher was too friendly, but had not crossed a line.
- A gym teacher bent a student over a chair and thrust at him from behind. An arbitrator said the gym teacher had committed misconduct, but that the offense was not fireable.
Situations like these arise because of New York’s law regarding educator misconduct. Under state law, an educator who is believed to have committed misconduct has the right to a hearing before an independent officer to determine the punishment. This hearing is called a 3020-a. Both the teacher and the school usually have attorneys who argue before an arbitrator hired by the state. The arbitrator, rather than the school, decides the consequences, according to the New York Daily News.
Teachers convicted of sex crimes with children can be immediately terminated, but teachers whose conduct does not rise to the level of a crime have the right to a hearing. This right means that in some cases, teachers could be in New York classrooms with questionable past conduct.
Regardless of where a child goes to school, parents should be aware of the signs of sexual abuse and can take steps to help protect their kids. Psychology Today recommends that parents encourage their kids to talk to them regularly about their day. That way, children may feel more comfortable reporting unacceptable behaviors to their parents. Watch for red flags with sexual abusers who may be grooming children.
New York’s Statute Of Limitations
If you suspect sexual abuse, call the police and report your suspicions to the school. You may want to consider contacting an attorney right away. New York has a strict statute of limitations that prevents many sexual abuse victims from moving forward with lawsuits because too much time has passed. Currently, the statute of limitation allows sexual abuse victims to file lawsuits until the child turns 18 plus an additional five years. Essentially, that means until the victim turns 23.