Friday, July 20, 2012

Teachers who show contempt for students: the Christine Rubino case

Does Christine Rubino consider herself to be witty? Was she hiding her sadness when she heard a 12-year-old girl had drowned, or was she actually not sad at all? She is no longer in danger of being fired, and instead will get a two-year suspension.

Break for rant teacher
New York Post
July 11, 2012

A Brooklyn teacher fired for posting “repulsive’’ Facebook comments suggesting her misbehaving students should drown now faces only a two-year suspension without pay. That’s the “lesser penalty” decided on by Department of Education arbitrator Randi Lowitt, The Post has learned.

Lowitt first ruled in June 2011 that Christine Rubino, a veteran teacher at PS 203 in Flatbush, should be fired for ranting on Facebook, “I’m thinking the beach sounds like a wonderful idea for my 5th graders. I HATE THEIR GUTS! They are all the devils spawn!”

The comment came a day after a 12-year-old Harlem girl, Nicole Suriel, drowned on a school trip to a Long Island beach.

After Rubino appealed the decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe overturned the termination as too harsh.

While “offensive” and “repulsive,” Jaffe concluded, Rubino’s remarks were made outside the school building, after hours, and were only circulated among adult Facebook friends.

Jaffe found no evidence that Rubino meant the kids any actual harm or that her outburst “affected her ability to teach” — and sent the matter back to Lowitt. Lowitt rejected the teacher’s request for back pay and to return to her classroom in the fall. And she insisted on the suspension, citing her finding that Rubino tried to save herself by getting a friend to claim authorship of the comments. The friend later admitted lying to probers, but Rubino denied putting her up to it. Lowitt ruled in her second opinion that Rubino was guilty not only of conduct unbecoming a teacher but “lying and obfuscation.”

“The [suspension] penalty is based on the lie, the continued lie, and the inability to acknowledge the lie,” Lowitt wrote.

Rubino plans to appeal, saying she has “suffered enough.” A two-year suspension without pay comes to a loss of $150,000.

The DOE’s Long War on Christine Rubino
The Assailed Teacher
JULY 16, 2012

When we last saw Christine Rubino, the New York State Supreme Court vacated the Department of Education’s penalty for comments she made on her private Facebook page.

The penalty was termination. The arbitrator who came up with the penalty, Randi Lowitt, knew that this was the outcome the DOE wanted. She was probably the only arbitrator ever to have the head of the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit, Theresa Europe, stare daggers at her throughout the hearing to ensure she came to the right decision.

As we have seen, in June of 2010, Christine wrote on her private Facebook wall that it was a perfect day to take her students to the beach. This was a day after a NYC student drowned off the coast of Long Island.

Christine was one of the first, if not the first, teacher in NYC to be brought up on charges for something she wrote on Facebook. This was before the DOE’s social media policy. This was also at a time when working people nationwide were being fired for things they said on the internet, especially teachers. The case of Christine Rubino was the morning star of a movement aimed at depriving working people of their freedom of speech.

This movement found many well wishers in the media and the general public. Newspaper articles made Christine out to be some sort of loose cannon. Readers who left comments on the NY and Huffington Post were quick to call for her termination, to exclaim that she was unfit to be around children and to say that this warranted her being deprived of her livelihood.

The drums of hypocritical American Puritanism beat heavy and constant in the case of Christine Rubino. The general public wants to bully teachers, call them names, blame them for low test scores and poverty, say we are underworked and overpaid and are drawn from the meanest part of the intellectual bell curve. Yet, at the same time, they want us underworked, overpaid idiots to be held to a moral system that Oliver Cromwell himself could not follow. They want us to smile at the grocery store, wave hello to them every morning and, if we use Facebook, to do nothing but post pictures of us grading exams and write thoughts about how every child is special like a snowflake.

[Maura Larkins comment: "Special like a snowflake" is a pejorative term, apparently used by some teachers. Actually, I've only heard it once from one of my fellow teachers. My colleague Robin Donlan used it to describe visitors to Comic-Con who brought their complaints to her (she moonlights as a Comic-Con officer). Today I found the phrase in a blog called "The Assailed Teacher", apparently written by an anonymous teacher (see second story below). The Assailed Teacher writes, "They want us underworked, overpaid idiots to be held to a moral system that Oliver Cromwell himself could not follow." Oliver Cromwell? The guy who committed genocide? In England, he allowed the occupants of besieged fortresses to walk free. In Ireland, the occupants were slaughtered, and populations of entire towns were exterminated. This behavior qualifies Oliver Cromwell as an expert on moral systems?]

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