Monday, March 05, 2012

Rochester schools just can't fire teacher Valerie Yarn

Here's a particularly egregious case – and they NYSUT is still defending her!

For years, teacher Valerie Yarn sent unwanted sexually suggestive letters, emails and presents to her bosses in the Rochester School District.

Yet even after she spent time in jail for violating a court order one principal obtained against her, court records show that Yarn was able to keep her job as a physical education teacher. It was not long, school officials say, before she turned her unwanted advances on a new target — her students — forcing them to remove their shirts and bras in gym class, saying that she needed to conduct a physical evaluation.

Now, city school officials are fighting to keep Yarn from returning to the classroom. After an arbitrator ruled last year that the district cannot fire her — even though he found the allegations against her credible — administrators took their case to the state's Supreme Court, where in November the judge vacated the ruling and called for a new review by a different arbitrator, who must ultimately make the decision on Yarn's employment.

"Her conduct, and her lack of insight, makes it both foreseeable and likely that she will engage in such behavior in the future," Judge Thomas VanStrydonck wrote in his ruling. "The repetition of her conduct is so outside the realm of reason and normal social relations that the penalty imposed by the hearing officer should shock the conscience of any reasonable person. It shocks the conscience of this Court."

Yarn's attorney filed last month a notice to appeal the decision.

The case underscores the difficulty New York school systems face removing problem teachers from the classroom. State law and union contracts make it difficult to remove tenured teachers from their positions, even in cases that involve misconduct with students. Hearings seeking termination can drag on for years and cost districts thousands of dollars, ultimately deterring many from going through the process. And by and large these cases unfold out of the public eye. Yarn is one of just three teachers the City School District has attempted to remove through the state's termination process — referred to as a 3020a hearing — since 2006, according to the state Education Department.

The New York State School Boards Association has been pushing for years to change the termination process, and last month state Education Commissioner John King echoed that call for reform during a hearing with lawmakers, calling the 3020a system "broken." King's suggestions involve allowing the commissioner to set maximum pay rates for arbitrators and disqualify those who do not meet certain deadlines.

While the court file shows that Yarn admitted many of the allegations against her, a spokesman with the state teachers union, which is backing Yarn's fight for her job, said that she deserves another chance.

"We believe that while accountability for one's actions is important, and that all teachers have a responsibility to the public and the students, there ought to be room for compassion," said Carl Korn, a spokesman with New York State Union of Teachers. "The hearing officer showed compassion and said if this teacher could rehabilitate herself she could be returned to the classroom."


February 25, 2012

Rochester schools just can't fire teacher Valerie Yarn

Despite sexually loaded behavior, district stymied in firing educator

Staff writer

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