Are teachers who park their cars in legal spots near their school as part of informational picketing and thereby cause students to be dropped off in the street engaged in protected 1st Amendment activity?

No. We have visited this case last year when the Appellate Division reversed the ruling of the Supreme Court in a case coming from the East Meadow school district. As you may recall members of the East Meadow Teachers Association decided to form an informational picket line by parking their cars in legal spots near Woodland Middle School in such a way that pedestrians could only pass to the school’s sidewalk through curb cuts. The parking area was not restricted but had been customarily used as a drop-off area for parents bringing their children to school. The protest caused traffic congestion and students were dropped off by their parents in the middle of the street.

Writing for the majority of the Court of Appeals Judge Abdus-Salaam found that while the teachers’ First Amendment rights were implicated, safety concerns for the students outweighed these rights and permitted the arbitrators to discipline the teachers pursuant to 3020-a.

A strong dissent, written by Judge Rivera, argued that the majority engaged in improper fact finding an improperly weighed the alleged disruption and safety concerns.

In the Matter of Richard Santer, Respondent, v Board of Education of East Meadow Union Free School District, Appellant. In the Matter of Barbara Lucia, Respondent, v Board of Education of East Meadow Union Free School District, Appellant, No. 51, No. 52, COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK, 2014 N.Y. LEXIS 997; 2014 NY Slip Op 3189; 199, L.R.R.M. 3291, May 6, 2014

Must a grievant stick to the strict time limits for arbitration in the CBA to preserve their right to arbitrate?

No. Most collective bargaining agreements contain time limits to bring grievances up to and including arbitration and generally have provisions which require that all disputes governing the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement be resolved by arbitration.

In Rondout Valleya case recently decided by the Appellate Division, Third Department, a teachers’ union sought arbitration on a series of grievances which the school district claimed were untimely. The school district, rather than submitting the matter to an arbitrator to decide timeliness, went to Supreme Court and obtained a stay of arbitration based on the Court’s determination that the arbitration requests were late.

The Third Department reversed the lower court finding, “Where a collective bargaining agreement contains a broad arbitration clause, the question of whether a party has complied with the procedural requirements of the grievance process — such as time limitations — is to be resolved by an arbitrator absent “a provision expressly making compliance with the time limitations a condition precedent to arbitration” (citations omitted).

In the Matter of the Arbitration between BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE RONDOUT VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent, and RONDOUT VALLEY FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, Appellant, et al., Respondent. 514914, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, THIRD DEPARTMENT, 2012 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8789; 2012 NY Slip Op 8862, December 20, 2012, Decided.

Does the termination of a dean of discipline for excessive corporeal punishment “shock the conscience” of the court?

Yes. A dean of discipline of a middle school in a gang-infested area of East New York, Brooklyn, was brought up on 3020-a charges of excessive corporeal punishment stemming from allegations that he placed an 11 year old in a headlock and threw a 13 year old against the wall. The dean denied both allegations and despite his statements the hearing found his story to be completely untrue and terminated him.

In a 3020-a hearing the Court will usually accept the facts as found by the arbitrator. The penalty, however, is held to a standard enunciated under Pell v. Board of Education. While this standard is less than precise it generally will defer to the arbitrator’s decision, after a full review of the teacher’s record, unless it “shocks the conscience” of the Court. In Principe v. Department or Education, it did.

The DOE argued that other cases of a single incident of corporal punishment which resulted in termination had been previously upheld by the Court. Both the Appellate Division, First Department and the Court of Appeals disagreed. In this case Peter Principe’s position of dean of discipline at a troubled middle school had to be taken into consideration. The cases cited by the DOE involved teachers in non-dean roles. Additionally the Appellate Division found, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, the arbitrator was totally biased against Principe and should not have discounted his whole testimony.

In the Matter of Peter Principe, Respondent, v New York City Department of Education, Appellant. 6289, 116031/09. SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT, 94 A.D.3d 431; 941 N.Y.S.2d 574; 2012 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 2490; 2012 NY Slip Op 2560 April 5, 2012, Decided.

In the Matter of Peter Principe, Respondent, v New York City Department of Education, Appellant. No. 240 SSM 41, COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK, 2012 N.Y. LEXIS 3632; 2012 NY Slip Op 8568, December 13, 2012, Decided

Does a six-month suspension, without pay, coupled with DOE paid for classroom management classes warrant a 3020-a award be remanded?

No. Jane Lewinter, a tenured science teacher taught for three years at East Bronx Academy. During her first year she was rated satisfactory. During her second year she suffered from intestinal problems as was absent from work for 2 separate 5 week periods and underwent surgery.

Starting with her return from her first Lewinter’s principal began frequent classroom observations accompanied by a large number of letters to her file. She was given an unsatisfactory rating.

The third year she received numerous observations and at least 73 letters to her file. She was charged with 12 charges which dealt with various classroom management and teaching effectiveness allegations. The matter was brought before Arbitrator Stephen m Bluth who found that half of the charges were either not actionable against Lewinter or lacked sufficient evidence to support.

In fashioning an award Bluth rejected DOE’s dismissal request and suspended Lewinter for six months without pay. Additionally he ordered that the DOE pay for classroom management classes on behalf of Lewinter and required that she attend.

Lewinter appealed to the New York State Supreme Court, Justice Judith J. Gische. Justice Gische found Bluth’s decision and award to be “Solomon-like.” She found that Lewinter’s satisfactorily rated first year at East Bronx Academy irrelevant and that Bluth’s award did not shock the conscience. The award was upheld.

Jane LEWINTER, Petitioner for an Order pursuant to Article 75 of the Civil Practice Laws and Rules, v. NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondent., 36 Misc.3d 1213(A), 2012 WL 2877619 (N.Y.Sup.), 2012 N.Y. Slip Op. 51264(U), No. 100029/11. Supreme Court, New York County, New York. July 11, 2012.

Is an allegation that the PIP+ program always leads to teacher termination sufficient for a judge to hear an appeal on the merits of a 3020-a hearing?

No. The PIP+ program, a creature of the UFT last collective bargaining agreement, provides allegedly incompetent teachers with a way to deal with these allegations. While designed to help teachers the program, as charged by Christopher Lobo, a twenty year tenured Earth Science teacher from Forest Hills High School, was a sham resulting in an almost certain termination recommendation.

PIP+, purportedly patterned after the union’s peer intervention program, provides for non-DOE evaluators to give assistance to allegedly incompetent teachers. A major difference between the union peer intervention program and PIP+ is that the PIP+ lacks confidentiality. All aspects of the allegedly incompetent teacher’s participation or lack thereof is admissible in a subsequent 3020-a hearing.

Lobo went through the PIP+ program but claimed it was rigged against him and asserted that no one had successfully completed the program. He also claimed that the DOE offered him no help and the observations that supported his U-ratings were flawed because they were completed by supervisors who were not familiar with his subject area.

Arbitrator Lawrence Henderson, in a 103 page decision, found that the observations were proper and he was provided support during the PIP+ period when “in addition [to] having access to staff development days, petitioner was provided with assistance before and after each of Principal Gootnick’s and A.P. Hoffman’s observations, and peer review by RMC Research Corporation, “a private vendor selected by the Department and the UFT” from April 2, 2009 to June 2, 2009. “

Upon appeal to State Supreme Court Justice Joan B. Lobis granted the City’s motion to dismiss finding that Lobo’s claims were insufficient to reverse Henderson’s termination finding.

Lobis wrote, “In light of Hearing Officer Henderson’s findings that petitioner was underperforming as an educator for two straight years, even after being offered resources to improve, petitioner cannot argue that the penalty of termination was unwarranted.”

CHRISTOPHER LOBO, Petitioner, -against- CITY OF NEW YORK; and NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; JOEL KLEIN, CHANCELLOR of NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondents, Index No. 116548/10, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 31902U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3426, July 7, 2011, Decided

Does the definition of “student” include a person a teacher has had sexual relations with even though he did not attend school?

Yes. Back in 2008 Gina Salamino, a tenured 2nd grade teacher at P.S. 121Q, was terminated after a 3020-a hearing for having sexual relations with a 17 year old. The case created some publicity. Salamino did not contest her affair but challenged the DOE’s definition of “student” to include the boy who spent the entire school year on the register of his high school but did not attend one day of school due to modeling commitments.

Salamino claimed that she met the 17 year old through a friend of her family and had no reason to believe he was a student. Additionally, she claimed, the boy should have been discharged from Bryant High School’s register but remained there due to a clerical error.

Amazingly there is no clear definition of “student” which would help determine whether the boy was a student for purposes of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which mandates dismissal for sexual misconduct of students, or 3020-a.

The arbitrator construed Chancellor’s Regulation A-101 to define student and terminated Salimino. On appeal Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich found that since the boy was under 18 pursuant to New York State law he was a minor and affirmed that Salamino’s termination was proper.

Salamino appealed to the Appellate Division who affirmed Justice Kornreich’s decision. The Court held, “We need not determine whether petitioner is correct that the meaning of the term  “student” should be so determined. Even if she is correct, we cannot conclude that the arbitrator acted arbitrarily and capriciously in using Regulation A-101 to determine its meaning.” [citation omitted]

Gina Salamino, Petitioner-Appellant, v Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York, et al., Respondents-Respondents, 3649, 109166/08, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT, 2011 NY Slip Op 5408; 2011 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5276, June 23, 2011, Decided

Will a termination after a 3020-a hearing, based on a finding of probable cause by a principal, be sustained?

Yes. Malcolm Menchin, a tenured teacher at Performance Conservatory High School in the Bronx, was terminated, after a 3020-a hearing by arbitrator Patricia A. Cullen. On appeal Menchin did not argue the merits of Cullen’s decision but instead relied upon the argument that the probable cause determination was flawed since it was made by his principal and not the Chancellor. Menchin argued that the delegation of determining probable cause was improperly delegated to the principal thus rendering all proceedings made in furtherance thereof invalid.

Justice Linda S. Jamieson of Rockland Supreme Court took little time dismissing this argument. Jamieson found that Chancellor Joel I. Klein had authority to issue the August 16, 2007 Delegation of power to the principals of high schools in District 75 and 79. (Menchin’s school is in District 79). The Delegation states, in relevant part, that the Chancellor delegates to “each high school, District 75 and 79 principal the power to” “Initiate and resolve disciplinary charges against teaching and supervisory staff members in your school. . . .”

Jamieson further found that Section 2590-h(38) does not have a limiting provision and denied Menchin’s appeal.

Malcolm Menchin, Petitioner, for a Judgment under Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules against New York City Department of Education, Performance Conservatory High School, Respondents. 2250/2011, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, ROCKLAND COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 51344U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3520, July 13, 2011, Decided

Does dismissal of a teacher found to have sexually harassed and verbally abused one student for one single incident shock the conscience of the Court?

No. Reinaldo Palencia, a twenty-two year veteran teacher, most recently from Martin Van Buren High School, was found by arbitrator Arthur Riegel to have, on one occasion, touched the shoulder of a female student and whisper in her ear words to the effect that if he were the student’s age he would fuck her.

Palencia raised several issues but the Court focused on whether Palencia’s good disciplinary history warranted his termination for what was basically a single incident of verbal abuse.

The Court quoted Riegel’s decision and agreed that Palencia’s action constitute[d] “classical sexual harassment” and “extreme verbal abuse.”

The Court continued, “Although termination is a severe penalty, it is
proportionate to the egregious, highly inappropriate nature of petitioner’s behavior, notwithstanding petitioners history with DOE.”

Reinaldo Palencia, Petitioner, against The New York City Board/Department of Education, Respondent. 112557/10, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 50905U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 2381, May 13, 2011, Decided

Is a request for medical arbitration necessary before going to Court to challenge a Line of Duty Injury request?

Anna Carter, a teacher assigned to the Reassignment Center, claimed a line of duty injury. She claimed that the injury occurred when “My knees were giving me pain I stood to go to the bathroom, and I tripped over two chair legs that were  straddling one another. ”

She completed the necessary paperwork and took an extended time before she was able to return to work.

Her OP-198 was not properly signed by the Superintendent and she was unable to produce a proper approval. Nevertheless the matter was heard by the Medical Board where Line of Duty status was denied. Carter then received a bill for a payroll overpayment of almost $34,000. No demand for medical arbitration was ever made by Carter or by the Union on her behalf.

Carter brought a petition in Supreme Court seeking the Line of Duty Injury status and the cancellation of the DOE recoupment of the alleged overpayment.

Justice Stallman found that the Court was powerless to review Carter claim because the Union contract permitted only medical arbitration as the exclusive remedy to challenge the Medical Board’s denial of LODI status.
In the Matter of the Application of ANNA CARTER, Petitioner, – against – Board of Education/Leaves Admin./HR Connect, Respondents. Index No. 401498/10, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 31061U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1941, April 22, 2011

Will the Court sustain a 3020-a award in which a teacher was terminated for maintaining an Albany address to avoid paying NYC income taxes?

Terri Patterson, a 10 veteran teacher at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn with an otherwise unblemished disciplinary record was found to have used an Albany address on DOE records and failed to file income taxes for three years as a New York City Resident. She immediately amended her taxes and paid the $1100 City income tax.

She was then served with charges in which the DOE sought her termination. Arbitrator Stuart Bauchner heard her explanation as to how she had an Albany address on file with the DOE. She claimed that after her “layoff” in 2003 (not clear how and why she was laid off) her address was inadvertently changed to Albany and she did not realize it until she was notified about it. The arbitrator did not buy Patterson’s explanation and terminated her. He found that she was not remorseful and used the DOE to defraud the government.

On appeal Supreme Court Justice Gische found that the standard to apply in 3020-a penalties was whether the penalty shocked the conscience. Justice Gische found that it did. Given Patterson’s ten year unblemished record, the lack of impact on her students and that remorse doesn’t make sense when you refile and correct an error the termination was vacated and sent back to the DOE for a determination not inconsistent with the Court’s decision.

Utilizing the shocks the conscience test might be beyond the power of the court since 3020-a determinations are reviewable only under those provisions of CPLR 7511 and not Article 78. No record of appeal could be found.
In the Matter of the Application of TERRI PATTERSON, Petitioner, For a judgment pursuant to Article 75 of the C.P.L.R. -against- CITY OF NEW YORK; NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; JOEL KLEIN, CHANCELLOR OF NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondents, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, Index No. 111175/2010, 2011 NY Slip Op 30870U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1520; 245 N.Y.L.J. 80, April 8, 2011