June 8, 2008

I prefer acupuncture

Imagine yourself on an acupuncturist’s table, with all the needles placed neatly into the back your neck and down the length of your spine. Then imagine electronic wires being attached to some of those needles, and a device being plugged into the wall that will send current down those wires into your body.

You wait in apprehension for the first turn of the dial.
You’re fearful and confront your vulnerability flat on. You remember that you’ve just turned over the control of your forthcoming discomfort to the doctor and the pain you’ll be feeling, if any, is entirely in his hands.

It reminds me of the feeling you get when you're called down to the principal's office on an abuse charge. But there's a difference. You can trust your acupuncturist to know what he’s doing and treat you without injury. With your principal, that's not always the case.

In BloomKlein’s New World Order, teachers are beginning to understand how precarious their position is in at the hands of a supervisor investigating an allegation of abuse. Two things are becoming ever more apparent: he won't necessarily apply the chancellor's regs in the teacher's favor, and he will always protect his own butt first.

At a faculty conference the other day, a supervisor indicated that a gentle touch on an arm or a shoulder to keep a line of kids moving was a No-No, that it would fall under the category of corporal abuse. What did you say?

When the staff started looking around at each other in very reasonable disbelief, a teacher asked if this could be clarified a bit, perhaps with a few examples of the kind of corporal abuse we wouldn’t know we were doing if we were doing it.

Quoth the supervisor: “Um, er, I don’t have the regs with me, I can’t remember.”

I’ll tell you this right now: I don't expect my acupuncturist to give me an answer as poor as this with all his little needles in my spine, and I certainly don’t want my supervisor admitting to ignorance when his judgment could potentially push me out of my career.

During Klein’s tenure we have come to live with a level of fear that is as sick as it is unprecedented. People misread and misinterpret the regulations on what constitutes corporal and verbal abuse and then use these misrepresentations to assess an incident that may or may not have happened.

I’m not defending abuse here, marginal or otherwise. What I’m talking about is an apparent willingness of some supervisors to misuse the regs to intimidate a teacher or put a career in jeopardy.

Here is what the State says, and it’s written right into the Chancellor’s Reg A-420:

These blue frames are from the UFT website , but are mirrored in the regs themselves. As you can see in the next one, the term does NOT mean using reasonable physical force for any of the following purposes:

To qualify the 4th point above, A-420 actually says that you can use physical restraint or removal for:
a pupil whose behavior is interfering with the orderly exercise and performance of school district functions, powers or duties, if that pupil has refused to comply with a request to refrain from further disruptive acts, provided that alternative procedures and methods not involving the use of physical force cannot be reasonably employed to achieve the purposes [of the first three items].

I have been hearing some pretty weird stuff about members being charged with what seems to me pretty normal behavior for people who are being paid to serve in loco parentis. Someone, I heard, is in the rubber room because s/he sat a child down in his seat after the boy refused to follow reiterated verbal instructions to go there and stay there. Any parent would have done the same thing with the child. And all the other parents would be fuming if they knew the amount of teacher time this particular child was taking up while he continued to disrupt the class.

As to Verbal abuse, regulation A-421 clearly indicates that a student must feel fear, distress, threat, or belittlement from your words.

So when I hear things like people being brought up on charges for raising their voice, I say there’s a huge difference between doing that to cause fear and doing it to get the kids to tone down the volume. One would like to believe the supervisor knows the difference as well. Teachers who can’t project their voice are clearly not in as much danger as someone like me, who has had operatic training and actually takes considerable pleasure making the walls vibrate without the help of a microphone. Whereas I’ve seen a few kids put their hands up to their ears when I really max out, they have never felt threatened, belittled or fearful of my voice. They know I’m doing my thing, but in Kleinworld, you never know how a supervisor might run with this.

Assessing the “intent” behind a possible A-420 and A-421 violation is not the only landmine you’re up against. Some supervisors haven’t realized that verbal and corporal have long been split into two separate regulations (the most recent versions were issued on 9/26/07). Many of them don’t know the protocols or follow them, like letting the teacher review the witness statements. One administrator I knew let a parent write a student’s witness statement and sign his name to it. What might cause a student "distress" needs a volume all to itself. (There are more examples over at Chaz’s School Daze, and AVoice comes at the whole issue of human contact between teachers and kids over at The Chancellor's. Fascinating, and we should be talking more about this. She posted another must-read on this topic the next day.)

You are not allowed to punish a child, or cause him distress or excessive fear — not moderate fear, but EXCESSIVE fear, mind you. (Who would want to, by the way.)

But, Klein's supervisors favor some pretty outrageous interpretations of this regulation, and when they do, they’re either protecting themselves against a parent they see as a personal threat, or they are plain out to get you.

Either way, teachers are on the front line, and teachers will take the fall.

Appendix: It's worth a few minutes re-acquainting yourself with these if you haven't read them. I see contradictory wording in the regs for the Answer to the 2nd question. Maybe someone can sort this out.


  1. Excellent topic to discuss. When the administration wants to get rid of you -- they can charge you with nonsense and mention that it was verbal abuse or corporal punishment. Plus the administrators' spies (other teachers = friends or relatives of the administrators) can file reports in the main office about you. In the Bloomklein era you have to watch your back with everybody.

  2. Woodlass:

    Thanks for the plug. My May 13th post discusses how an administrator can use just about anything to get a teacher. A know a case where a teacher patted a student's shoulder and was accused of sexual abuse. Go figure!

  3. Two angles from which to consider this problem:

    1. The new, rewritten regulations are designed to hurt teachers. Period.

    2. The new, rewritten regulations have nothing at all to do with education, or even discipline, for that matter.

    Since some time a bit following September 2002, principals (and AP's and other "supervisory" types) have been either outright ordered, intimidated or more subtly led to understand that one of their prime functions is to brutally hurt teachers and those who depend upon them and care for them (i.e., family, friends, neighbors, et al.).

    One of the first stratagems they employed was the fabrication of all sorts of asinine and nonsensical charges of corporal punishment, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse.

    Since then, they have decided that "incompetency" is a splendid and similarly vague and therefore eminently workable way to end a teacher's sanity, good health, income and in some instances -- life.

    Let's see now, why don't any of us truly accept the brutal reality of "educating" children today:


    If you have many years of experience teaching, know what you're doing, are halfway intelligent, may even attempt to sculpt your own destiny, you're done.

    Abuse, punishment, incompetency: it's all a crock and to chase our tails around analyzing it is EXACTLY what dem massahs of all us sufferin' slaves want!

    Stand up and fight.

  4. I just read a new post by AVoice at Chancellor's and high recommend it, so I added a link to it in the text above near the link to Chaz. (I commented there that she takes up the whole issue of human contact between teachers and kids, which is fascinating, and we should be talking about this some more.)

  5. @ the last anonymous comment. Wow!
    Extremely well said.