UFT wins corporal punishment allegations grievance

Sep 17, 2009 2:44 PM
The UFT scored a major arbitration victory over the Department of Education after unilateral changes were made to a Chancellor’s Regulation that deals with corporal punishment allegations — in violation of the union contract.

A major UFT objection had to do with the rights of members to receive copies of witness statements if they choose not to sign the DOE waiver on nonretaliation. The DOE’s original document said that if an employee chooses not to sign the DOE acknowledgement that he or she will not retaliate and will not disclose the content of statements made during an investigation, he or she “may be provided” with statements from which “all identifying information has been redacted.”

After the change, the document reads that he or she “shall be provided” with statements from which “all identifying information has been redacted.”

The UFT was never consulted about the the changes, according to UFT Grievance Department Director Howard Solomon. And, in a consent award issued by an arbitrator and signed by both sides in June, the DOE agreed to issue a revised regulation.

The consent award also made changes involving situations where an investigation, either by the principal or the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations, has determined that the accused staff member has not committed an act of corporal punishment or that the allegation of corporal punishment cannot be substantiated.

While the prior version mandated that the staff member must be notified by the principal, the arbitration award changed that to “notified by the principal in writing,” which Solomon said was a huge gain for members. “This way, a member has proof that the allegations were not substantiated,” he said.

The award also clarified the issue of privacy. The original wording that the DOE used was “confidentiality must be balanced with the obligation to cooperate with investigations by authorized parties.” The award now gives examples of who those parties are: the OSI investigator, the principal or the principal’s designee.

Ellen Gallin Procida of the UFT Grievance Department and UFT Secretary Michael Mendel were also able to get language changed that read “any perceived attempt to tamper with or impede a corporal punishment investigation or to retaliate against those who experience, report or witness corporal punishment is strictly prohibited and may result in disciplinary charges.”

The word “perceived” was deleted, mainly because it is vague and open to different definitions in every school and would have left members unprotected, Solomon said.