Who decides who’s a ‘predator’ teacher?

“Predator teachers” don’t belong in the classroom, writes Arthur Goldstein in SchoolBook. But who decides who’s a predator?

Sensational headlines blare that teacher unions “go to bat” for sexual predators, he writes.

. . . I don’t accept that someone is a sexual predator simply because Michael Bloomberg, Dennis Walcott,  Campbell Brown or some Astroturf group like StudentsFirstNY says so.

Goldstein knows a “trumped up” case against a teacher who’s been dragged through the tabloids. He’s dubious about changing the law to let the chancellor fire teachers despite the rulings of independent arbitrators.

Not every teacher accused of impropriety is guilty.

About Joanne


  1. I’m all for due process. What we have right now in many cases is what I call “undue process”. That is what needs to be eliminated. It shouldn’t take years of documentation–literally years–to get rid of certain teachers.

  2. Yet oddly, given how obvious it is to Darren, the justice system remains unmoved. Which pretty much suggests that Darren is completely uninterested in due process when it doesn’t result in his outcome of choice.

    • The personal jabs get a bit old, Cal.

      Please, justify why it should take *years* to get rid of a teacher. Of course that never happens, and perhaps someone will call me a liar, but I know of teachers–not teacher, but teachers–for whom the local unions threw up roadblocks and diversions such that it took years to get rid of them. I can’t be the only one who knows of such instances.

      • Darren,

        If we are referring to NYC schools, and specifically teachers who were placed in the rubber rooms, it was the Dept. of Ed dragging the process out for years.

      • ???

        I wasn’t jabbing you. Just your opinions.

        It takes years to fire any government employee.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    Some history from the Flint area. A guy, known to be a predator, goes to a Florida school trailing no warnings. Glad to see him go, apparently. Preys on kids in Florida. Ruckus about how come the Flint folks kept his hobby secret.
    A mom got ninety days in jail for getting her dtr to file bogus assault claims against a teacher.
    Point is, due process is important. But it is probably a good idea to keep the accused out of harm’s way–depending on the definition–until thing is finished.
    Problem is that child sexual assault is generally considered so heinous that the question is not one of guilt or innocence, but of what can we do to the guy.
    Insisting on due process is a good idea, whether you’re in a union or not, but, after the case is settled, insisting the perp finish out his career in the rubber room is a bad idea.
    Criminal justice system is the place to go. The accused is either guilty or not guilty. If not guilty, the admin might still have sufficient info to keep him away from kids. Separate issue.
    Just remember Duke lax hoax before you get all fired up.

  4. I don’t think schools have to abide by “fruit of the poisonous tree” rules. If a pedophile teacher gets caught with incriminating evidence that was thrown out because of an illegal search, then by all means fire the teacher. But in most of these cases, the cops investigated and found insufficient grounds to continue.

    Posner wrote a good procedure for these situations and the unions have signed off on it. Use that.

  5. Deirdre Mundy says:

    We had a creepy teacher at my high school. He flirted inappropriately, gave girls grades on presentations based on their legs, etc. AFIK, he never actually abused anyone— because he shared his room with another teacher, and looking back, that other teacher (who had daughters) made sure that this man was never, ever alone with a student.

    On the other hand, if he’d tried to get a job at another school, it would have been illegal to say, “We think he’s creepy and a potential molestor”……

    I knew of another teacher who regularly had affairs with students and bopped from school to school. There was never an administrative or criminal case against him, because the girls refused to press charges. So, what can a principal do? They’d stop giving him raises, and encourage him to leave, but he was in a high demand field and always found another job, and more girls.

    But, without an actual complaint, you can’t DO anything…. unless you write the policies so narrow that a teacher at the school who gives his daughter and a friend a ride to the movies is in violation as well…..

  6. Okay, first, I find it incredibly unlikely that a teacher is regularly engaging in sex with minors and nothing could be done.

    Second, if a minor acknowledged having sex with a teacher, her willingness to press charges is irrelevant. The administrator is mandated to act and the machine moves forward. So it’s just not true that the principals couldn’t do anything in the face of open acknowledgement of sex.

    In the instance of a creepy teacher, that’s just life in the big city. I don’t want a principal being able to fire a teacher on those grounds because principals will immediately start abusing that ability. However, I find it unlikely the principal couldn’t make it his or her life’s work to document the creepiness and use it as grounds for dismissal.

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    If the minor acknowledges it to her friends, the friends go to the couselor, the counselor goes to the girl and she swears up and down that she never said that and the friends are liars? And if she’s not technically under the age of consent though she’s under 18?

    The principals DO try to get rid of the creeps, but they can’t stop them from getting a job somewhere else in a different district. And the creeps are good at picking the right sort of victim, the ones who won’t go running to their parents and who will buy the whole ‘you’re so special I had to date you’ load of crud.

    As adults, we can see this as the creepy, abusive, manipulative behavior it is. But the creeps also pick the 16 year old girls who believe the ‘it’s just because your so much more mature than your classmates’ line.

  8. So a teacher is having sex with willing students above the age of consent who cooperate with him in his breaking his commitment as a teacher, but who isn’t committing a crime.

    And you want it to be easier for principals to fire teachers if students come running to them declaring that so-and-so had sex with their friend, on the offchance that you’ll pick off a few of these creeps?

    The principals DO try to get rid of the creeps, but they can’t stop them from getting a job somewhere else in a different district.

    They could if they documented him having sex with a student, which they could if they engaged in entrapment. They could then report him to the state.

    And if the unions complained about that, then people could bitch about unions.

  9. Deirdre Mundy says:

    See, that’s the problem– in a lot of these cases it’s an “Everyone knows this teacher is taking advantage of his students and singling out the depressed girls of recently divorced parents (or whoever his chosen victim class is), but no one can prove anything.”

    I guess we could try to raise the age of consent —but the problem is always that you want to catch the 55 year old man taking advantage of a 16 year old student, but leave the 18 year old senior dating a 16 year old junior alone……..

    Realistically, I think the ‘other teachers unite to make sure creepy teacher isn’t alone with students’ is probably the best option available in a lot of these situations….

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    A number of states do have laws where the difference in ages matters. For example, a 55 year old having sex with a 16 year old would be statutory rape, but a 17 year old having sex with a 16 year old wouldn’t.

  11. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Actually, it seems like for most states, anyone over 16 is fair game. Because of cut-off dates, my girls will turn 16 in 10th grade.

    So, in most states, that 55 year old teacher could legally carry on a ‘consensual’ relationship with a 10th grader. And we all know how capable 10th graders are of assessing long term consequences and making informed decisions!

    • Deirdre, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You are consistently failing to make the distinction between “legal” and “position of trust”, which most laws have as well, which covers some, but not all, of the situations you’re describing.

  12. Yeah, most of them have those rules now, don’t they?

    But we don’t really need those rules, because teachers are not allowed to have sex with their students. That’s a separate rule from age of consent–unless, god forbid, teachers are allowed to have sex with their students if no other rules are broken? But that can’t be so.

    So there are a few different issues here:

    1) Suspicion of criminal behavior that is not established. A kid says that Mr. Peabody “touched” him, but reasonable doubt exists–that is, there is really no proof.

    2) Criminal behavior of sexual misconduct established but evidence thrown out of court.

    3) Teacher has otherwise legal interaction with student that is nonetheless not allowed for a teacher (having sex with students). Evidence unequivocal.

    4) Rumors of #1, 2, or 3, along with people just think teacher is creepy, but no charges made.

    2 and 3 should be enough to not only fire a teacher but get them banned from teaching. 1 and 4 should not. The hubbub is, for the most part, about situations 1 and 4.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      There is also (the very rare) issue #5: Conviction of criminal behavior, but keeps job with district.

      Issue #5 is a public relations disaster.

      • Mark,

        Do you know of any cases where this occurred in a school?

      • You dropped the “sexual misconduct” part. Dubner was convicted for selling coke.

        I’m not sure the schools can even refuse to hire a teacher with a criminal conviction, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t easily be able to fire one.

        • In Texas a teacher can lose their certification after being convicted of a felony.

          • palisadesk says:

            That happens here too. Also, starting about 5 years ago we were required to submit documentary proof of a clean criminal background check. We have to resubmit one every year.

          • That makes sense. But when I wrote my original comment I was deliberately limiting myself to what I knew to be true.

            And that post still holds. Everyone is fulminating about cases in which there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Why should principals be able to fire those teachers without due process?