HO: I don’t know. I’ve heard a lot of parent-teacher conferences. A lot of times you have parents who have a problem with a teacher or if there is a problem between a teacher and a parent you generally would have an assistant principal present or a principal just to make sure that everything goes smoothly—there’s some kind of order you know in case a parent gets upset or something like that. I mean I never heard of a situation in which the teacher refuses to speak and a teacher even having UFT present to just have a discussion about the child. I don’t understand.
ADVOCATE: You know what I don’t understand. What is being alleged that rises to being investigated? I’m not really sure I get this. What’s behind the whole thing, if you don’t mind?
HO: Well the thing is, this meeting with SILAS PAJECO happened on November 14, OK? Parent’s upset about the meeting or lack thereof. Parent is hearing that Ms. UNTAMED visits some of the students’ in the class homes and spoke badly about her son, SILAS.
ADVOCATE: So Ms. UNTAMED is alleged to have gone to students’ homes you mean of the four boys?
HO: Right, I guess, students, yes, to complain about SILAS.
ADVOCATE: This is the first time we’re hearing this…
HO: I know, I know.
ADVOCATE: Up until now it’s just a telephone conversation…
HO: Well it started off with a telephone conversation with MADELENE’s mom.
ADVOCATE: So all of that is just background to what we’re really getting at.
HO: No. What happens is… No, the allegation started with a conversation, just what I read.
ADVOCATE: Sorry, I’m a little thick today. I mean, I made many calls like this. I used the word sexual, and I never got in trouble for it. So I don’t understand.
HO: This allegation started with SOREA BENDERS, mother of student MADELENE BENDERS who reported that Ms. UNTAMED contacted her at home and stated that MADELENE was being sexually harassed. That another student was sexually harassing her daughter and she wanted to meet away from school to discuss the matter. And the daughter stated that she wasn’t being sexually harassed. I interviewed the daughter. I interviewed the mother. The mother is saying that Ms. UNTAMED said that SILAS PAJECO is sexually harassing the daughter. The daughter is saying that Ms. UNTAMED said that SILAS PAJECO was sexually harassing the daughter. Now, on November 14…
ADVOCATE: Wait a minute. Up to now is there anything that requires an investigation? Is it because Ms. UNTAMED may have mentioned another student by name, and specifically to a parent? Is that the problem?
HO: Well, I’ll get to it. I’ll get to it. They’re saying that this occurred on November 16. MADELENE’s mom got this phone call on November 16, but on November 14 this meeting occurred at the school. So the way it looks is that on November 14 you have this meeting that you are uncomfortable with regarding SILAS PAJECO. The mother mentions in the meeting that, hey, I’m hearing from other students that you’re saying bad things about my son. And you respond by removing yourself from the meeting. This is on November 14. But two days later MADELENE’s mom gets a call about some sexual harassment thing about SILAS.
Me: From the get go you see I said that November 16 just isn’t right.
HO: They seem to have it…
Me: How do they have it? Because when they started talking about this it was in January.
HO Because they wanted to see you. The letter is in January. This actually started in November.
Me: How do they know what the exact date was?
HO: The reason why was because they remember that they wanted to speak with you at the parent-teacher conference, and you were a no show that evening.
Me: OK Fine, but I could have talked to her two weeks prior.
HO That ‘s two days before the parent-teacher conference. This conversation was on a Sunday.
HO: No, the dates of the parent-teacher conference are correct. If their recollection is two days prior to the parent teacher conference.
Me: Well, their recollection is wrong. What is reasonable is to call them immediately after the October 24 Referral.
ADVOCATE: So the complaint…
Me: I didn’t call on November 16.
HO: I’m not saying when you called. I’m not saying when you didn’t call.
Me: That’s important now. I didn’t know that the date was important before, and I said from the get go that November 16 was too late.
ADVOCATE: So the basic complaint is that Ms. UNTAMED is harassing SILAS PAJECO.
Me: That I’m going after him? And that I’m ruining his reputation…
ADVOCATE: such as it is…
Me: as an upstanding young man?
ADVOCATE: Is that the nature of why we’re here?
ADVOCATE: There’s more.
Me: There’s a lot more?
HO: Yes, there’s more.
Me: What I’m saying is that I don’t know if I wrote down exactly when I did it, but it was very close to October 24.
HO: Listen, it says here. On January 20 of 2009 (Reading) “ Ms. PRINCIPAL P., My name is SOREA BENDERS. I am MADELENE BENEDERS’ mother. This is to inform you that MS UNTAMED the science teacher had called me Sunday, November 16, 2008 to inform me that there is a child in my daughter’s class that is constantly sexually harassing her, and I should complain so that the school can remove the student from her class. Ms. UNTAMED had told me that the students name is SILAS PAJECO. I am writing you this letter so that you can please investigate if it is true or not. I spoke to my daughter and she said that the student was not sexually harassing her or bothering her. Ms. UNTAMED has called me a few times. She has invited me to meet with her at a diner about this. She told me that she cannot meet at the school, but that she could meet with me at a diner which I did not agree to attend. I had made many phone calls to the school to meet with me at the school and she never replied.” This is the letter. (He briefly shows the letter to the ADVOCATE and to me).
Me: And what was the date of the letter?
HO January 20.
Me: Well I don’t have it here, but I was given another letter that didn’t say anything like this.
ADVOCATE: This letter is to PRINCIPAL P.
Me: Well the thing is that I was given a letter by PRINCIPL P. that said something totally different. So that might be a further allegation, I don’t know. I'm not going to introduce it myself.
HO: So this is where.
Me: The thing is that I didn’t call her on Sunday, November 16 because the main idea of calling her was so that MADELENE could make up some work that she had not finished. Besides that I just wanted to make sure that they talked about what was happening in class. And so the Referral was before October 31 and the phone call would have come probably before October 31 or in the first week after because MADELENE hadn’t gotten her work in and I was giving her a last chance to get her work in . So it would have been just before October 31 or just after October 31 that I had this whole conversation with her mother and that the fact that she was cued on that date because that date makes me look bad.
HO: She was what?
Me: She was cued on that date.
HO: What do you mean cued?
Me: She was told by administrators that that would be a very convenient date for her to say that this conversation took place. That’s not when it took place.
HO: …by administrators
HO: Sunday, November 16?
Me: It just makes the case look worse for me.
HO: You’re saying that PRINCIPAL P…
Me: I’m saying that PRINCIPAL P…
HO I’m just asking because you said administrators…
Me: OK, PRINCIPAL P.. She’s the principal she can take full responsibility.
HO You’re saying that PRINCIPAL P. concocted this? This Sunday thing?
Me: Because I earn $100,000 and PRINCIPAL P. and I don’t get along.
HO Because what?
Me: She can get rid of a $100,000 teacher who is constantly telling her that “No, science should be taught this way and not that way.” OK? That’s basically it. She’s getting rid of someone who she would rather not deal with and save herself a lot of money in the process.
HO You feel like that’s the reason why.
Me: Yes. This is the only way that she can get rid of me.
HO: OK. Another case here. Regarding MADELENE.
Me: This is still MADELENE?
HO: Yes. This is another case. While I was conducting the investigation regarding this, I learned from MADELENE BENDERS that on January 28, 2009 when MADELENE was touched on her shoulder by a male student in the class, Ms. UNTAMED told her, “you should be used to being touched”. That you told MADELENE that she should be used to being touched. In addition, (reading) “Investigator Hayden Sands stated that he has also learned that Ms. UNTAMED has been asking students what they had told AP XAVIER about her.
HO: I’ll get to that.
ADVOCATE: …what they’re saying about her to who, you?
HO: No, to XAVIER.
HO: Did you make a statement like that?
Me: That she should be used to being touched? No. One of the boys who had been teasing her--and I sat them very far away from each other, but without my noticing he had located himself near enough to her so that he could go like that with his pen. HOWARD MAHAN. He was one of the four boys who had been teasing her.
He had been separated but he took the position of someone who was absent or who hadn’t come in, an empty chair. He moved quickly into an empty chair…
ADV: So that he could bother her and he poked her with his pen.
Me: Right, and so she said, Ms. UNTAMED, Ms. UNTAMED, HOWARD is poking me with his pen, and I looked at her because we had this thing where she had come to me for help, and I had gone out of my way and got into trouble trying to find out what happened and then she denied everything she had told me. So what I said to her was, “So this is happening again?”
HO Is that what you said?
Me: Yes, So this is happening AGAIN?
HO: You’re quoting yourself?
Me: Yes. “So this is happening again?” And this is as though to say, let this be a lesson to you. I said AGAIN, with emphasis. And then I told her that she needed to write it down or she could go and talk to a counselor.
HO You told her in front of the class?
Me: Yes, and I told her to sign it and date it this time. Right it down, sign it and date it, or I’ll give you a pass to your counselor. And then HOWARD got up and said, “So what she’s saying is that you’re used to getting touched, you’re used to getting touched”. This was HOWARD. This was HOWARD’s slant on what I said to MADELENE. “You should be used to it” because I said “again”.
HO So HOWARD stated that…go ahead
Me: That Ms. UNTAMED said, or what she’s saying is “ you should be used to it, or you’re used to boys touching you, or you like it.
ADVOCATE: That’s what he thought you meant by…
Me: No he was trying to get me in trouble. He often took statements that I said that were totally normal and turned them into derogatory statements. And that was a little joke of his.
HO Did you visit HOWARD’s home on Saturday or Sunday morning?
Me: Yes, on Sunday morning.
Me: And I also visited ALAN’S home and…I visited the four boys.
HO: Did you have any problem with HOWARD? Did HOWARD make any allegations against you?
Me: HOWARD was one of the four boys who threatened to make allegations against me and have their friends back them up. So very close to this date, before they got going with whatever allegations that they wanted to do, I decided that I needed to make home visits with the boys who had threatened me because this could fall right into PRINCIPAL P.’s lap and when you have these allegations… when you get the ball rolling…
HO What allegations existed though?
Me: … before they ever did, I wanted to talk to the boys’ parents and say that “ your son said this” and the group that I talked to I said “your boys are saying that they are going to get me in trouble by saying that I did something, by accusing me of something and then getting their friends to back them up. And I went immediately because now I don’t care about the back and forth inappropriate language. That was the least of my worries. What I talked to each one of these parents about including SILAS PAJECO’S was that they were threatening me and saying that they were going to get me in trouble, they were going to accuse me of doing something and then get their friends to lie for them and that nobody was going to believe me, and so I did home visits out of the school. I didn’t want the parents anywhere near the school until I made them very clear.
HO Why didn’t you just call the parents?
Me: Because I wanted to be with the child and the parents at the same time and that way they caved. They all caved. They said yes, that was what was said.
HO: But you made home visits for what reason?
Me: To make sure that the kids would tell the truth to their parents immediately before they got any little plot going. Once you start that, a teacher’s reputation can be totally ruined by just anything they say.
ADVOCATE: You wanted a personal meeting so that the parent, the kid, and yourself could in their home, away from the school…
Me: in their home away from the school…
ADVOCATE: So that there could be a frank discussion.
HO You said before the students created a plot or allegations against you?
Me: Yeah, because that’s what they threatened to do.
ADVOCATE: So they don’t have a chance to collude.
Me: Yeah, before they got to get together, and figure out what the false allegation was going to be, I wanted it totally defused, and by the way, I live in the same neighborhood.
HO: Did HOWARD lodge any kind of allegation against you?
Me: Yeah, he said I grabbed his arm.
HO OK. Did you visit HOWARD before or after he said you grabbed his arm?
Me: That was before the allegation was given to me.
HO OK. When did you visit HOWARD?
Me: This was just after election day.
Me: The weekend after election day. And I hadn’t received any allegations.