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NYC Closing Public School "Rubber Rooms"

NYC is finally ending the insanity of "rubber rooms." For those unfamiliar, rubber rooms are facilities to which teachers are sent when removed from work due to incompetence or (often sexual) misconduct. Teachers' unions, the bane of public education, have ensured that they cannot be fired and receive full pay for years while doing nothing ... just as long as they do nothing somewhere other than around children.

The New Yorker profiled rubber rooms last year. I learned of them while writing a pending article on the bias in media coverage of child sex abuse and the Catholic Church. While about 1.5% of priests have been accused of child abuse (a rate about equal to society at large), the abuse rate in public schools is estimated at about 5%. These are some of the fully-paid inmates of NY rubber rooms. The author of a Dept. of Ed study remarked:

So we think the Catholic Church has a problem? The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.

And to give a sense of the cover up, California public schools reported a deluge of heinous child molestation, and yet, as National Review observed:

during the first half of 2002, the 61 largest newspapers in California ran nearly 2,000 stories about sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, mostly concerning past allegations. During the same period, those newspapers ran four stories about the federal government's discovery of the much larger -- and ongoing -- abuse scandal in public schools.

The delay in redressing this phenomena of rubber rooms (costing NYC $65 million / year) is nearly criminal, but the AP doesn't report where these teachers will go when the rooms are closed - one hopes not back to their old jobs as usual!  

Categories > Education

Discussions - 2 Comments

I'm all for seeing the "rubber rooms" closed, but the statistics on sexual abuse that you cite compare apples to oranges. While the 1.5% figure refers to the percentage of priests accused of sexual abuse, the 6-10% figure refers to children who claim to have been sexually abused by teachers or other school employees.

John,

You're absolutely right, and I've corrected. I quoted the wrong numbers. 5% of teachers have been accused and 6%-10% or 15% of students (depending on the study and the type of misconduct included) have been abused (though other studies claim dramatically higher numbers).

(See: Elizabeth Cohen, "Sex Abuse of Students Common; Research Suggests 15% of All Children Harassed," Press & Sun-Bulletin, February 10, 2002, p. 1A; and Berta Delgado and Sarah Talalay, "Sex Cases Increase in Schools; Many Acts of Teacher Misconduct Not Being Reported," Sun-Sentinel, June 4, 1995, p. 1A.)

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