January 2, 2010

The DoE's "subfield" offices

I am not so happy reading the Jacqueline Stevens article in the Jan. 4th issue of The Nation.

Apparently our government is disappearing US residents right here on American turf in places I've never even heard of before. They're called "subfields," and they're located just about anywhere.
"If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear."

— James Pendergraph, former director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of State and Local Coordination
According to Stevens, even Amnesty International's Sarnata Reynolds was shocked at hearing Pendergraph's words, quoting her as saying in a 2009 report called "Jailed Without Justice":
"It was almost surreal . . . I couldn't believe he would say it so boldly as though it weren't anything wrong."
Apparently the deputy director of Human Rights Watch, Alison Parker, hadn't heard of these places either.

There are 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices around the country (that's 162 more than the detention centers that they don't try and hide). They're located in commercial spaces "designed for confining individuals in transit," and worse still: they're not subject to the I&CE Office's Detention Standards. That means a whole range of human rights are being violated — physical, legal, and ethical.

Every time I read about this country's descent into fascism, I can't help thinking how the BloomKlein DoE is just part of this big, big ugly picture.

I don't want to minimize the horror of these subfields by comparing them to our rubber rooms. But if, as Stevens points out, subfields "thwart transparency and hence accountability," I can't help but make comparisons. No one knows anything about what's really going on in the RRs — not the deals being made behind people's backs, and sometimes not even the charges (as in this case reported in Combier's blog).

Some other similarities are also downright creepy.
Euphemismistic names for these places. Instead of outright "Detention Centers," we get "Service Processing Centers" for subfields and "Teacher Reassignment Centers" for RRs.

Secretive maneuvering. While detainees are moved in and out of subfields by agents in plain clothes, we get suits coming to our schools snooping around for information on our colleagues.

Presumption of guilt on the part of investigators, who are not independent.

Inappropriate placements. According to Stevens, detained for a civil infraction are subjected to the same conditions in subfields as suspected terrorists. We know the RRs are filled to the brim with educators who belong in classrooms. Most are being detained in these totally inappropriate settings for minor incidents (which could be dealt with in a supervisor's office) or for whistleblowing. SoBronxSchool and the NY Post mention trailers, fences, security gate, and child-height toilets at the refurbished Manhattan/Bronx TRC.

Overcrowding. Chaz thinks our RRs are being filled up because of faulty disciplinary codes. He calculates a sevenfold increase over the pre-BloomKlein rates.

Enhanced interrogation techniques. Subfield offices are warehouses, where people are shuttled around at odd hours, shackled to each other, and kept in the cold without bedding — all of which conditions break people down. Our RRs are not meant to be happy places, designed as they are to make people uncomfortable enough to quit. But, also see Chaz again on the way OSI and SCI agents get information on people they're investigating.

I don't see all this ending anytime soon. Bloomberg hasn't listened, is not listening, and is never going to listen, despite what he says on the front page of the Times.

Our governments — plural — are on a mission. It's hard to tell precisely what that mission is at this point, but we do know that nothing good is going to come of it.

Happy New Year, though. A brief moment of holiday rest before all the work we have to do.


  1. UA:

    Great post. It is too bad that the mainstream media does not understand the abuses that Tweed allows when sending teachers to the "rubber rooms".

  2. __________________________________

    Rubber Rooms Intended to Disappear Teachers follow Stalinist Model

    A well known Education Blogger has often been harshly criticized for comparing the realities of being trapped in the Kafkaesque world of the so called NYC Dept of Education Rubber Rooms, to the life experiences of Nazi concentration camp victims.

    Those who hurl these undeserved criticisms simply fail to understand that SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL does not intend the reader to take his comparisons of Rubber Rooms and concentration camps literally, but in a symbolic sense.

    I just participated in being interviewed for an upcoming TV News Special on the NYC DOE's infamous Rubber Rooms.

    Interestingly, many of those interviewed spoke of the fact that a major goal of the Rubber Rooms as envisioned by the DOE is to intentionally break down one's spirit and the "will to go on" among those incarcerated in these 21 rst Century abominations.

    I have personally witnessed with horror how once strong and proud Educators, once confined to the Rubber Rooms for extended periods of time, one, two and three years or more, begin to undergo rather dramatic personality changes.

    Some become quiet and turn noticeably inside themselves. The topics of conversation change markedly compared to their pre Rubber Room years and life's priorities evolve and change until many of these dedicated Teachers begin to wither away- both mentally and even physically.

    A very dear former Teacher colleague of mine, a prime example of this concept, literally wasted away before my eyes and died shortly after his eventual "liberation" from our particular RR gulag, after more than two years.

    I still see him sometimes, with vivid clarity, pass before my eyes. A talented and inspiring teacher, he was removed on some petty excuse because he once spoke out at a Faculty Meeting when one of Joel Klein's high ranking stooge/lackeys was present in the school Auditorium.

    At that moment, I vividly recall thinking to myself as though it were yesterday- "this teacher has just effectively signed his Death Warrant".

    And as Fate and subsequent events were to prove, - he indeed literally had.

    David Pakter


  3. __________________________________

    Rubber Rooms Intended to Disappear Teachers follow Stalinist Model


    People often ask me, as I remain in my fifth Rubber Room gulag, (this one a small windowless room with no readily available fresh drinking water or fresh air, and continue to undergo my Second NYS 3020-a Teacher Hearings, why I do not simply retire and leave the schools system.

    In fact, for quite some time, after a very long teaching career, my Retirement benefits far outstrip my salary. I am virtually losing money by not leaving the system.

    Only those who were in the concentration camps or know individuals who were, can understand what the Rubber Rooms can do to the human mind.

    For many victims of the NYC DOE Rubber Room gulags, there is the acute and perpetual awareness that "giving up" is precisely what the DOE hopes will be the final result of one's being condemned to the Rubber Rooms.

    That is why so many falsely accused, innocent educators hold on as long as they are mentally and physically able to do so.

    Just as for the countless victims in Hitler's concentration camps, over half a century ago, sometimes "holding on" becomes their only means of expressing one's simple human dignity, self respect and psychological self worth.

    Every person, in this instance, every teacher, who has ever been falsely and unjustly accused of something by the New York City Dept of Education can understand and identify with these words.

    In a strangely hard to understand way, perhaps difficult to comprehend fashion, sometimes in Life the best one can hope for and the only Justice, (for some, an almost bizarre form of revenge), is the act of refusing to "give up and give in" to a monstrously corrupt system that has taken away from them everything they ever valued and held dear in Life.

    And so one reaches that point where one must decide if he or she will allow themselves to be crushed or, alternatively, even if "running on empty", remain standing. And thus "survive".

    For the latter group of dedicated NYC Teachers, as they continue to battle those sorry excuses for human beings, the countless Pigs at the Educational Trough, the Babarians in Suits, at the Schoolhouse Gates, who have temporarily hijacked our beloved Public Schools system, there remains that conviction, so forcefully articulated by Nietzche:
    "That which does not succeed in destroying me, makes me stronger".

    It is that type of inner strength which made such individuals such truly great and inspiring Teachers in the first place.

    David Pakter