Some of us may remember the 1985 movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ where a disparate group of kids are assigned a Saturday detention where they rediscover themselves and each other after having to spend the whole day together. But what happens to teachers when they misbehave? Do they get a detention also? Well, in New York City it appears they do, and some of them have spent years there collecting full salaries all the while. Officially known as “Temporary Reassignment Centers”, approximately 700 teachers and school employees have been moved into these “rubber rooms” while they await disciplinary hearings from city arbitrators. Some play chess, some start book clubs, Italian classes and Yoga; or some just argue over whether or not to open the window. Card playing, magazine reading, puzzles and sleeping are high on the list of reassignment activities also.
The longest ‘reassignment’ prize goes to a teacher who was accused of sexual abuse and pulled from his classroom 5-1/2 years ago. Because the charges were never proved, and he refuses to step down, he has collected his full salary (up to $95,000 per year) the whole time. Other charges are more trivial, ranging from accusations of screaming at a kid to throwing away a kids test sheet after an argument.
All in all, this costs the taxpayers $65 million dollars a year to uphold. This does not count the cost of hiring substitutes to replace them while they wait, or the cost of rent to house the centers, and security guards to breakup the arguments as tempers flare in the close quarters. The cases are piling up because only 20 arbitrators have been approved by the union to hear the cases and they only meet 5 times a month and twice during the summer.
Jennifer Saunders, who spent three years on reassignment in Manhattan claims, “Some people get divorced. They’re on medication and they never were before. They’re crushed. They’re shattered. I’ve seen people’s whole lives destroyed.”
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