BROOKLYN (CN) – Some 2000 schoolteachers say New York City is discriminating against them by confining them on trumped-up charges in infamous “rubber rooms” until they retire. Rubber rooms are study hall-like places where teachers are paid full wages to do nothing — sometime for years.
The class of tenured teachers claims School Chancellor Joel Klein is following Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s orders: to abolish the public schools’ tenure system by firing tenured teachers or forcing them to quit by making their work life unbearable.
Mayor Bloomberg took administrative control of the city’s public schools in 2002. The named plaintiffs – Marie Anne Thomas, Leverett Holmes, Josefina Cruz, Brian Salazar, David Pakter and Paul Santucci – all were brought up on disciplinary charges after Bloomberg took over the schools.
They say Chancellor Klein had no educational experience when he was appointed, and was given the job with a directive to abolish the public school’s system of tenure, and to either fire tenured teachers or force them to quit by making their work life unbearable.
Since then, the defendants – the New York City Department of Education, Chancellor Klein, Human Resources Director Philip Crowe and his deputy Judith Rivera – have denied an estimated 2,000 class members due process rights, consigning them to the limbo of the district’s overcrowded Teacher Reassignment Centers, aka the rubber rooms, according to the complaint.
Thomas and her fellow plaintiffs say the practice also violates their right to equal protection, their human rights, and their contractual and statutory rights under state law. They seek declaratory and injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages.
In each case, the teachers said, the charges were improperly brought without contractually required checks and balances to determine whether there was probable cause to back the suspicions raised about them.
When confined in rubber rooms, the teachers are subjected to surveillance by guards and security cameras, hostility from administrators, and are denied use of electronic devices, including their telephones and laptop computers.
And because the centers are overcrowded, the teachers say, they are exposed to health and fire dangers.
Few teachers are ever provided with the opportunity to be exonerated of any or all charges, the complaint states.
The teachers say that no teacher outside of New York Cit is confined in a rubber room while awaiting the disposition of disciplinary charges. They want the rubber rooms to be closed immediately, and to be returned to their teaching duties.
The teachers are represented by Joy Hochstadt of Manhattan.