Kim DePrima, a special education teacher, was convicted of manslaughter when her pit bulls killed a 90-year-old neighbor. Later, she was arrested again when she hung out with an ex-con while he shot at her ex-boyfriend’s house. (A full 9mm round was found in DePrima’s car.) She was fined three-months’ pay, but is still allowed to teach in New York City’s schools system. According to the first in a four-part investigative series by the New York Post — something they’ve touched on before — the amount of NYC teachers convicted of crimes (500 in five years) and the kinds of crimes they’ve committed are equally outrageous.
Monique Wallace, another special-ed teacher, was convicted of “stealing nearly $40,000 in federal funds by lying about her job and income on an application for subsidized housing intended for poor families,” but collects $63,000 annually at an academy in Brooklyn. A Bronx teacher who tackled a student and pinned him to the ground is also still working after claiming she tripped.
Anecdotes like these, while shocking on their own, get to a larger institutional problem, the Post argues, in which the system of employee disciplinary hearings continues to be “slow, costly and ineffective,” with only sex crimes deemed serious enough to warrant automatic firings.
Particularly with mass layoffs on the horizon, education officials say they’re dismayed that they don’t have the right to dismiss seriously misbehaving teachers — including outright criminals — who in most other fields could be fired on the spot.
“Because of the way state law and the contract require that we terminate tenured teachers . . . we don’t get to make rational decisions about convicted felons,” said Mike Best, the Department of Education’s general counsel.
What the Post leaves unaccounted for is where else they’d find their headlines.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2011