By resisting almost any change aimed at improving our public schools, teachers unions have become a ripe target for reformers across the ideological spectrum. Even Hollywood, famously sympathetic to organized labor, has turned on unions with the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’” (2010) and a feature film, “Won’t Back Down,” to be released later this year. But perhaps most damaging to the unions’ credibility is their position on sexual misconduct involving teachers and students in New York schools, which is even causing union members to begin to lose faith.
In the last five years in New York City, 97 tenured teachers or school employees have been charged by the Department of Education with sexual misconduct. Among the charges substantiated by the city’s special commissioner of investigation—that is, found to have sufficient merit that an arbitrator’s full examination was justified—in the 2011-12 school year:
• An assistant principal at a Brooklyn high school made explicit sexual remarks to three different girls, including asking one of them if she would perform oral sex on him.
• A teacher in Queens had a sexual relationship with a 13-year old girl and sent her inappropriate messages through email and Facebook.
If this kind of behavior were happening in any adult workplace in America, there would be zero tolerance. Yet our public school children are defenseless.