Can a teacher in the Leadership Academy who has a disabled child in the NYC Public School system maintain an ADA claim when she alleges she was terminated from her position due to her advocacy for her child?

Yes. Mandy Ehrlich, a New York City public school teacher since 1996 was accepted into the aspiring principals program of the New York City Leadership Academy in 2011. The Leadership Academy trains teachers to become administrators through a year long program in which they receive administrator pay, attend a summer program, and are “shadow-trained” by experienced administrators for 10 months. These mentor principals rate the aspiring teacher on a Leadership Academy matrix as pass or fail.

Ms. Ehrlich has a daughter who, due to her physical disabilities, received special education services. During the time that Ehrlich was attending the Leadership Academy two therapists, assigned to her daughter, were replaced. Ehrlich was not satisfied with the services her daughter was receiving and began to make inquiry about how to obtain a Related Service Arrangement (R.S.A.) which would allow for services to be paid by the DOE for outside, usually private, service providers.

A colleague from Ehrlich’s Leadership Academy class was assigned to her daughter’s school and after consulting with the school’s principal was directed to discuss the matter with her Leadership Academy colleague. After being referred to the district administrator for special education services the RSA was denied and Ehrlich was dismissed from her position at the Leadership Academy after an investigation revealed that her advocacy for her child had “crossed a line between the professional and personal.”

Ehrlich commenced an action in the Federal Court, Southern District of New York, claiming she was denied her position at the Leadership Academy in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for her actions as an advocate for her child. The DOE moves to dismiss the matter and Judge Alvin Hellerstein denied the application who found that a reasonable jury could find a violation of the ADA.

Ehrlich v New York City Leadership Academy

 

 

 

Will the failure to follow the “workshop method” be sufficient to terminate a 22 year tenured teacher?

Yes. After a 3020-a hearing an arbitrator found that an eighth grade teacher resisted efforts of school administration to help her become a satisfactory teacher, failed to make necessary efforts to improve and determined she should be dismissed from her teaching position.

The teacher appealed to Justice Manuel Mendez of New York County Supreme Court who held that, “the arbitrator failed to address school administration’s noncompliance with the Chancellor’s Rules as a potential contributing factor to the inability to control the classroom. The penalty of termination, after twenty-two years of service without prior disciplinary charges, the arbitrator’s reliance on inadequate evidence in the form of “Logs of Assistance” and the department’s failure take steps to provide assistance tailored to the petitioner’s needs, is shocking to this Court’s sense of fairness.

The Appellate Division, First Department, reversed finding that “the evidence showed that notwithstanding petitioner’s prior unblemished record of service, she continued to blame others and refused to accept responsibility for her failure to effectively manage her classroom and deliver effective instruction. In particular, petitioner exhibited an unwillingness to employ the “workshop method” in her classroom, or implement any of the school administration’s suggestions for improvement.

In re Naomi Davies

Will the failure to provide mandated pre-observation conferences require that a U-rating be reversed?

No. While there have been some lower courts which have held that the DOE’s own Manual of Pedagogical Observations acts as a rule or regulation which must be followed, the Appellate Division, First Department has held that observations, which normally require pre-observation conferences, are not required for a U-rating to be sustained.

In re Kameisa Richards

Will the DOE, seven years after an arbitration decision, be permitted to appeal the decision?

No. After an arbitration decision rendered in 2007 a teacher was found to have inappropriately touched female students and was suspended, without pay, for six months. The DOE’s feeble attempts to vacate the award to seek the teacher’s termination, alleging, among other things, the death of the originally assigned Justice, was finally determined by the Appellate Division, First Department, which denied the application.

Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York v Alexis Grullon

Will the termination of special ed, tenured teacher be upheld when the teacher has been found to have twisted the arms of students?

No. A special education teacher with a long, unblemished record was charged with twisting the arms of several students in separate incidents. The 3020-a arbitrator found excessive corporal punishment and terminated the teacher. The Supreme Court, Justice Margaret Chan, reversed, finding that intent to inflict pain was missing from the incidents and found that the teacher’s actions did not merit termination. ERIC HAUBENSTOCK, Petitioner, -against- CITY OF NEW YORK; NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; DENNIS WALCOTT, CHANCELLOR of NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondents. Index Number: 651892/2013, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2014 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 2691; 2014 NY Slip Op 31549(U), June 16, 2014

Will a probationary termination be upheld where a Chapter Leader, on probation, first started getting unsatisfactory reviews after she wrote a letter to the principal?

No. While it is a bit unusual that a probationer would accept the position of Chapter Leader such a decision was made by a Staten Island teacher. The teacher had performed and was rated satisfactorily up until she wrote a letter to the principal asking how she could make up prep periods. At that point the principal began rating her unsatisfactorily.

Both the Supreme Court and Appellate Division, Second Department found that the teacher’s probationary dismissal was in bad faith and reinstated her with back pay.

The Supreme Court had granted the teacher tenure which the Second Department found was something the Courts could not legally do and sent the matter back to the DOE for further proceedings.

 In the Matter of Lisa Capece, etc., respondent, v Margaret Schultz, etc., et al., appellants. (Index No. 80361/08), 2012-03257, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 2014 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3775; 2014 NY Slip Op 3834, May 28, 2014

 

Will the termination of a tenured ATR be upheld when he engaged in conversations with students about college and internships that did not offend these students?

No. A substitute teacher covering a double-period class for high school senior students, participated in conversation with a group of the students concerning their college choices and post-graduation internship plans. During the conversation, the teacher offered to serve as a contact point for a potential internship at a media company for a female student who had expressed an interest in film and media. The student testified at the arbitration hearing that she appreciated this and was not offended by the offer. When a male student then indicated that he did not want to do an internship or work during the summer after graduation, the teacher whispered to the female student something to the effect of “watch how they react to this,” and proceeded to tell the students about a valuable internship experience he had before he went to college. The female student also was not offended by this. When another male student expressed his interest in attending a college that was widely reported to be a “party school,” petitioner asked him something to the effect of, “so you’re the type to party with,” or “you want to go to school to party.” The student testified that he was “not offended in any way” by the comment. Rather, the several students who testified generally indicated that they enjoyed the class and found it to have been more interesting than expected from a substitute.

The teacher was terminated by the arbitrator and he appealed. Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan denied the teacher’s petition finding that while the incident itself may not have been grounds for termination the teacher had a prior disciplinary history involving student teaching and thus taken as a whole the conduct merited termination.

The Appellate Division, First Department, reversed. The Court could not find any rule prohibiting the teacher from engaging in these conversations and thus his termination shocked the conscience and could not be sustained.

In re Jonathan Polayes, Petitioner-Appellant, v City of New York, at al., Respondents-Respondents, 12649, 156710/12, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT, 2014 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3905; 2014 NY Slip Op 3958, June 3, 2014