HEARING OFFICER: There’s a Chancellor’s Regulation regarding sexual harassing behavior and reporting procedures. (begins to read) It is the responsibility of each principal to designate a staff member to whom reports of student to student sexual harassment can be made. Complaints of sexual harassment may be made verbally or in writing using the attached student to student sexual harassment complaint form. OK?
Me: I didn’t fill out any student to student sexual harassment form. That’s the referral that I gave to the dean.
HO: No, I’m just saying, the Dean…. Alright, ok.
Me: Also going back and forth, I didn’t deem it to be sexual harassment.
HO: Right, I’ve got what you’re saying. The problem is…
Me: If every bad word that they use is a sexual harassment complaint form, ok, but they’re going to have to tell me that and give me some kind of training .
HO: I know what you’re saying. The problem is. There’s a few problems, but one of them is…the comment that they are saying that you said happened. There are enough students saying that you made an inappropriate comment about being used to being touched or whatever.
Me: But that’s because there’s an organized effort to get me fired.
HO: OK, OK. With respect to visiting the homes, with respect to SOREA BENDERS, the parent she said that you said that SILAS PAJECO was sexually harassing…
Me: No I didn’t say that.
HO: I know, I know, but there’s no reason why I could see why SOREA would be uncredible. Why would SOREA make this up?
ADVOCATE; Maybe its just a conclusion on her part.
HO No she’s saying sexual harassed, MADELENE’s saying sexually harassed.
Me: Maybe the word harassed to them automatically means …
HO: It’s directly after the meeting. It’s directly after the meeting with Ms. XAVIER and SILAS PAJECO. Even Ms. PAJECO is hearing that her son’s name is out there.
Me: But this isn’t until January and the time that I said this was back in November or October.
HO: It didn’t matter when it was. It doesn’t matter that the allegation came about in January referring to something that happened prior to.
Me: That’s a long time to be verbally exact especially when you’re being questioned and maybe having words put into your mouth by a principal that is not friendly to me.
HO: Let me just say this. I am very cognizant of principals, and I err on the side of the staff. I err on the side of staff, and if there’s a way that there’s some kind of wiggle room, if there’s an allegation that comes in, I try to work with everybody. I’m not here to chop anybody’s head off. I never was. I try to make a difference. A positive difference. However, with this particular case, I’m like I can’t see why… I know you say we can’t depend on the dates, but they knew…we were able to pin down exactly when the dates were and it just seemed odd that you have a conversation with PAJECO and you’re uncomfortable with that particular meeting, but then that weekend you contact MADELENE’s mom and it’s as if you’re, oh wow, PAJECO’S mom is upset with me, let me bring something negative. I’m saying as if not saying it is. Let me start something negative against PAJECO with MADELENE’s mom. And MADELENE’s saying, hey if anybody made any kind of sexual allegations against me or sexual harassment against me, I’d be the first to sit back and say, yeah, that happened, she doesn’t have a problem with that. She says that hey she doesn’t have any problem with SILAS at all, in fact, they don’t even really speak, they just do what they have to do. There’s not anything going back and forth. According to her. OK?
Me: And I’m telling you that that didn’t happen November 16, that happened closer to October 24, closer to election day, closer to the time that all these charges were being brought up.
HO: November 4, election day. You had a conversation with PAJECO at the school.
Me: and I might have had another conversation on the 16th just before the parent teacher conference, but I kind of doubt it because I had been detained by the principal that week before and I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to parents. So that had been ironed out before around the report card date. There was no conversation on November 16th that had anything to do with that problem.
ADVOCATE: We started saying that if it’s true that sexual harassment—those two words were used together to MADELENE’s mother, so what?
HO I’m sorry?
ADVOCATE: So what? So what if the teacher said to MADELENE’s mother that she was being sexually abused?
HO: Look how it looks. This is even before we came here, even before I met you. Look how it looks. You have the meeting with the Assistant Principal. There’s a meeting, you’re uncomfortable with the meeting. In the meeting the parent says, why are you saying these things about my son and the meeting really doesn’t get off the ground. You don’t respond to the meeting whatever. Then that weekend..
Me: But I’m just telling you that it didn’t happen that weekend.
HO: But according to MADELENE and Ms. BENDERS, oh PAJECO, what seems to be a problem is sexually harssing your daughter.
Me: But before I even knew that Nov. 16th would be a problem, I said immediately November 16th doesn’t sound like the right date because that threat that I got was on October 24th, that was number 1, and number 2 the report cards were coming due on October 31st so that means that the end of the marking period was October 31st. The time to talk to MADELENE’s mother was around the end and also I talked to all four boys in this week around November 4th election day. So I wouldn’t have waited unless I called her again to see if she was coming or something like that. Maybe I called her again on Nov. 16th but the time to call MADELENE’s mother was before all of this happened. It wasn’t after. I didn’t want to pursue the SILAS PAJECO’S problems because MADELENE hadn’t gotten back, hadn’t said anything. Claimed that he hadn’t said anything to her so there was no need to talk to the mother again on November 16th. If she had already said, no nothing happened then I wouldn’t be trying to urge her to say something had happened. Especially when I knew what she said to them. It was just going to get her in trouble, it was just going to make something worse happen for her, so why should I call the mother when already I know that she has denied it.
HO: Well, November 14 is the meeting with SILAS PAJECO’S mom with the AP XAVIER. We’re clear on that date, right?
Me: I guess, that I don’t even know. But that is something extremely verifiable. It’s not so verifiable that I called on November 16. Or if I did call on November 16th that I hadn’t already covered this October something.
HO: On January SOREA BENDERS is writing to Ms. PRINCIPAL P. to inform her that on November 16th two days after this meeting, that didn’t really go so well with SILAS PAJECO’S mom, and SILAS PAJECO was present, two days later, the Sunday, you call to inform that there was a child in my daughter’s class that was constantly sexually harassing her, and I should complain so that the school could remove the student from my daughter’s class. This is to inform you that Ms. UNTAMED, the science teacher, called me on Sunday, Nov. 16th, 2008 to inform me that there is a child in my daughter’s class that is constantly sexually harassing her. Now before coming to this table it looks like, panic mode, there’s no mention of any sexual harassment at all, regarding SILAS PAJECO’S behvior. Sexual harassment, that would be pretty serious. You’ve got SOREA BENDERS saying hey Ms. UNTAMED’s calling me and I put my daughter on the phone and its news to us and MADELENE is saying that this didn’t even happen.
Me: But why should this mother be more credible than I am?
HO: Listen, I’m just saying, even before I came here…the way things look…
Me: That’s because we concocted the November 16th date, which you can’t verify that, that that’s what I said to her. November 16th is not necessarily when I called her. She’s saying in January that that is when I called her. She’s saying this in January. Why on earth did she call in January? Why didn’t she call on Nov. 17th? Why didn’t she come up on November 20th? December?
HO: What do you mean come up?
Me: If I’m telling her on the 16th, that there’s a boy is saying that MADELENE has big breasts and big buttocks, why did that mother not come immediately and talk to a counselor about that?
HO: OK. you want a possible answer to that?
Me: Possible. I’m worried about what is and what isn’t. I want facts.
HO: Possible. Plausible answer. Because the parent knew that two days later after November 16th, she’ll see you on November 18th at the parent-teacher conference. That’s when we’ll get to the bottom of it. But you weren’t there.
Me: I was there in the afternoon.
HO She’s working and she’s thinking that she’ll see you in the evening.
Me: OK. So I called and tried to make a contact. If she can’t make contact, why doesn’t she write that precise letter on November 19th?
HO: Well she’s saying here, “Ms. UNTAMED had called me a few times. She invited me to meet with her at a diner about this. She told me that she cannot meet me at the school, but will meet me at a diner, which I did not agree to attend. She felt uncomfortable meeting at a diner. This is about the school. This is about her daughter in the school. She felt more comfortable meeting in the school. “I had made many phone calls to the school to meet with her at the school. She never called me back.”
Me: But she said I had called her many times.
HO: A few times.
Me: Several times. So there was a back and forth to try to make a meeting.
HO: You’re trying to make a meeting off school grounds.
Me: no no no. That first time that I called her I asked her if she would like to meet off school grounds. She said no I’m not comfortable with that, so that was it. I said talk to your daughter, and this wasn’t on November 16th, it was on November…I don’t know, it was probably before election day.
ADVOCATE: Does the date matter because Ms. PAJECO feels that the teacher Ms. UNTAMED is persecuting her son by accusing him of sexual harassment?
ADVOCATE: That is what this is all about?
Me: But I didn’t talk to any of those other boys mothers and fathers about sexual harassment. I talked to them about threatening a teacher and threatening to frame a teacher.
HO: You talked to them about it?
Me: I told each one of those four boys who threatened me that that is what happened in that meeting. That they had threatened to bring me up on charges and have their friends back them up which is exactly what they’re doing. I talked to the parents about that back in November. I talked to MADELENE’s mother to see if she wanted to talk to MADELENE about what was happening, but it wasn’t on Nov. 16th because this was after I had been removed from the class and there was no need to talk to MADELENE’s mother at that point. If I did call her it was just to remind her that, you know, parent teacher conferences were on Nov 18th.
HO: You call the mother to remind her about parent-teacher conferences?
Me: Anybody who has a problem with a grade. Her grade was very low. But again, I don’t think I called her on November 16th . It was much before that. So I wasn’t interfering…
HO: They seem to have a better recollection of that.
Me: Because it’s a frame. Because they’ve been cued. Because they’ve been told what date would be nice to make this case a nice little tie up.
HO I never got any of that. And let me tell you something. Ms. PRINCIPAL P. and Ms. XAVIER were sitting there in the room and I could tell you they were clueless.
Me: Yeah, right. Totally clueless.
HO Let me tell you something.
Me: You pulled the Nov. 16th date together, not the…
HO: I didn’t pull anything. The dates to me were abstract. Pulling together the dates is like ok on Nov 16th MADELENE’s mom wrote, stated that on that particular date, you called her.
Me: She was given that date.
HO: Ok, so what, November 16th opposed to November 20th, in my head, right? But then during that thing, I learn that on the 18th was the parent-teacher conferences which you weren’t present, but she wanted to speak to you at the parent-teacher conference.. So when you ask why, that’s two days later. OK? Two days before the 16th there’s a meeting with you , XAVIER, PAJECO mother, the UFT rep ok, two days before.
Me: November what? Let’s make sure. All of this would really be destroyed if it wasn’t on Nov. 14th. I’ll go back and check these dates. Cause you see, I don’t know. I don’t know, so I’m really suspicious that the mother knows exactly on Nov 16th I called her and talked to her about MADELENE and her little problem.
HO November 14th, 2008 9:10 AM meeting with PAJECO. Ms. UNTAMED, Mr. BAKER, UFT rep. You can check with Mr. BAKER too. In room 306. That’s two days before the phone call.
ADVOCATE: alleged phone call
HO: about PAJECO sexually harassing.
Me: It wasn’t PAJECO. Number 1, it wasn’t PAJECO. It was four boys. Number 2: I heard them call her a cow, I didn’t hear anything else so I couldn’t say that it was sexual harassment unless MADELENE said it. So I think they need to talk to MADELENE. Talk to MADELENE, talk to MADELENE, talk to MADELENE.
ADVOCATE: If the whole thing was about…
Me: It wasn’t just about SILAS PAJECO.
ADVOCATE: I think the mother is saying, you’re bothering her son, SILAS accusing him of sexual harassment of MADELENE. How did she get to that conclusion? How?
HO: Well, it’s not just that. You have MADELENE and the mother saying that you’re saying that SILAS PAJECO is sexually harassing her.
Me: No, I’m saying she’s having problems with four boys, there’s a back and forth…
ADVOCATE. She’s saying that the worse she could have said that could relate to that was that they were calling her a cow.
HO OK. I put that down. OK.
ADVOCATE: So where’s the sexual harassment coming from unless they say that she is lying.
HO: They are saying that.
Me: And I’m saying that they threatened me on October 24 with framing me.
HO But the mother didn’t threaten you. I interviewed MADELENE’s mom and MADELENE’s mom said that you said that MADELENE is being sexually harassed, on the phone and then she wrote it to PRINCIPAL P. in the night that I independently interviewed MADELENE’s mom.
Me: If this is true and not constructed by PRINCIPAL P., and the parent coordinator, and the mother..
HO: The parent coordinator is in this too?
ADVOCATE: You’re saying that they coached the mom to say it this way?
Me: I say she was coached, and maybe in a way that she didn’t even know. The parent coordinator is doing the translating.
HO Not to me. Not to me.
Me: This woman wrote a letter in Spanish that was then translated, so how could she write this letter in perfect English.
HO: Listen, I interviewed the mother personally.
Me: And you’re interviewing me and I’m telling you that I’m telling you the truth and the mom is not. And the mother is not an almost-30- year-veteren of the public schools. I have no reason to be lying—actually I have a reason to be lying, but I have no reason to do these things, to bring this upon myself except that I was just trying to protect a girl who said she was being harassed. She said that she was being harassed. So what I needed to happen now was for her mother to talk to her about it to see if there was a problem . Because the boys are saying that she was sexually harassing them. This is a he-said she-said, I wasn’t there. All I heard was the word cow. That’s all I heard. They are the ones who are making up all this stuff.
ADVOCATE: By just using the word harassment, and assuming that the word sexual always goes with it.
Me: This was three month later.
HO: MADELENE’s mom specifically stated to MADELENE, “Did this happen”? MADELENE says no.
Me: So what’s the problem? We’re done.
HO: Just because a person speaks Spanish doesn’t mean they can’t have someone in English translate a letter to the principal. Just cause you speak Spanish—and she speaks some English, she does understand some English.
Me: But that letter is absolutely correct English.
HO: And is that impossible? And it’s not exactly correct English. I can point to a part in it that is not proper English.
Me: And I’m telling you that she had help writing it.
HO: And is that a problem?
Me: Yes, if they change the dates, or if they cued her the date.
ADVOCATE: The thing I don’t get is..
HO: I’ve got to go…
Me: I don’t get why my word is not worth more, than a parent’s word that says something three months later.
HO: Listen there is no statute of limitations on this whether it is three months later or not.
Me: There is on memory.
HO: No there’s not.
Me: Yes, there is. Have you heard me say exactly what date anything happened? I don’t know. I have to go back to my calendar, my notes, and everything to know exactly when all of these things happened. What I do know is that on October 24 I was threatened.
HO: If your memory is worse than someone else’s does that mean its inadmissible? Let me tell you something, my memory can be screwed up also and you know what I use all the time? I use a calendar book that helps me. You know, the ledgers, the calendar books and it helps me so I don’t forget things.
Me: Does she have a calendar book where she wrote down that I called her?
HO: Or I use my blackberry as a backup. I’m just saying to you that just because you don’t remember a particular date doesn’t mean that somebody else doesn’t as well.
Me: And I said immediately when you said November 16th before I knew the meaning that you were putting on November 16th, as soon as you said it, that sounds like a long time, because October 24th is when I was worried about what the boys were saying about the girl and what she was saying. And that is when I had the meeting with the boys and they told me that she was telling them stuff.
HO: You shouldn’t have had a meeting with the boys.
Me: When are teachers supposed…there is a step one to everything.
HO: Not to everything…
Me: Yes there is. Step I: Have a conference with the student. No. Step I is say “Don’t do that”. Step II: Have an individual conference. Step III is call the parent. This is the Ladder of Referral.
HO: Not when it comes to this type of thing.
Me: All I heard was “cow”.
HO: OK. I understand. I put that down.
Me: And I have to go back to my notes and see if she actually said, if I actually wrote down big breasts or big buttocks. I can’t say for her. I can only say what she may have told me, but all I can say is that there was a problem of a back and forth.
HO: Right. I understand. I wrote that down.
Me: So. How can I bring that to a level of sexual harassment when I’m still on a Step I or Step II trying to figure it out, and I’m calling parents now.
HO: You’re calling parents, you’re visiting parents
HO: You’re having students leave classrooms and write statements, you’re putting three students in the back of the class and asking them what did they say to Ms. XAVIER.
Me: No, I’m saying what was the problem?
HO: What was the problem? Listen Ms. XAVIER brought them back. You’re a science teacher. If Ms. XAVIER brought them back to the classroom, it’s none of your business what the problem was.
Me: It is my business when they threaten me.
Me: It is my business when they threaten me.
HO: You get threatened then you take it up to your immediate supervisor.
Me: My immediate supervisors are corrupt and untrustworthy.
HO: Then you take it to the Special Commissioner of Investigations.
Me: I did. I wrote the Superintendent a letter. It’s not going to do me any good.
HO: Then listen. You have your UFT rep here, and I’m sure he can advise you as to what other remedies you can find regarding this, but I’m just saying...what I do as an investigator is I listen to the parties and I speak to you to find out what was going on. I put down basically what you told me, and then at some point we’ll make a determination whether this case is substantiated or unsubstantiated. I’m going to let you know that some of the things that you did regarding this was improper. Was improper. OK?
Me: Would care to tell me exactly which ones? Because on November 16th it didn’t happen.
HO: OK. Basically. To have those students leave the room to write anything regarding what you really said or anything like that? Improper.
Me: That was before an allegation.
HO: Doesn’t matter. You don’t know.
Me: So now, nobody can have any students write anything in their room because they’re going to be brought up on charges?
HO: If any allegation has been made..
Me: There were no allegations yet.
HO: The incident occurred. Something occurred.
HO: To have people write about what that incident is not your place to do. There is a forum set up for that. OK? You do not sit down and have them write statements. Assistant Principals do. Principals do. They’re the ones that investigate allegations, whether …incidents and allegations they investigate. Even before it’s an allegation.
ADVOCATE: What else was improper?
HO: Well according to MADELENE and her mom, you stated that there was a sexual harassment against her by this child. They said that this child’s name was stated. This is what they’re saying. They appear to be credible in what they are saying.
Me: Well I’m telling you that I didn’t say it.
HO: And I have that in here.
ADVOCATE: Why is that improper in itself? If you’re a parent, wouldn’t you want the teacher to call you and say that some boys are sexually harassing my daughter.
HO: What is proper is take it up. If there is sexual harassment going on in the school, you let the proper authorities know. Let the proper authorities do what they have to do.
ADVOCATE: So the proper authorities should have called Ms. BENDERS, not the teacher.
HO: The teacher contacts the proper authorities. It goes up. Be guided by them. They make the determination. You’re the teacher. You’re reporting this allegation. You’re reporting. Hey, someone’s daughter is being sexually harassed.
HO: OK? Take it to the Assistant Principal. Take it to the Principal. Listen. We’ve got a problem.
ADVOCATE: But not to the parent directly. You’re saying that she shouldn’t have called the parent.
HO: Absolutely. No.
ADVOCATE: But she’s saying she didn’t use the words sexual harassment.
HO: I understand that.
Me: And it was a back and forth thing. I wanted her to talk to MADELENE about it.
HO: But that’s not how it was construed to them according to them, so I have to put that in. I don’t see what axe to grind the mother has. Even the mother is saying, well, I’m trying to find out stuff. I’m calling her. I’m not getting any satisfaction from her so I’m taking it to the principal. Hey, what’s going on. She’s the one that keeps wanting to meet with me off the school grounds.
ADVOCATE: Yeah. Is that improper, to meet a parent off school grounds?
Me: I don’t “keep”… I suggested once.
HO: I’m not talking about whether that’s improper or not. I understand that there’s a level of comfortability in that, I’m just saying that she was uncomfortable with that.
HO: Is that improper for her to be uncomfortable with meeting the teacher off school grounds about her…
Me: I was willing to meet with her, I didn’t have any problem meeting with her.
HO: I don’t think there is anything more problem with her being uncomfortable with it than with her being uncomfortable with the parent off school grounds because of the climate of the school.
Me: There is one thing. MADELENE failed and January 20th was about the time that MADELENE realized that she was failing. She got a 55.
ADV: Then the last thing is SILAS PAJECO’S mom…
Me: PAJECO got an 80.
ADV: got an idea that the teacher is accusing him of sexual harassment and keeps going after him.
ADV; PAJECO’s mom. She is the one who wanted the meeting, although they had met earlier, so she has an idea that SILAS, her son, is being accused by that same teacher of sexual harassment of a girl.
Me: What I talked to her about was that SILAS PAJECO…why isn’t anybody getting up in arms about kids threatening their teacher? I mean these are four kids. What I said, was that SILAS PAJECO was threatening to get me fired.
ADV; That’s what you told his mom.
Me: Yes, that he was one of the four students who said we are going to get you fired. We are going to get allegations against you and we are going to…
ADV: You didn’t talk to the mom about very much else, or did you?
Me: The other, in my mind, was diminished, but she may have put that up here and the threats down here. But the fact that there was an interchange of insults, and that MADELENE had said something to him and he had said something back to MADELENE, but that she needs to talk to him about him not calling her those names. Not calling girls cows. And that was like “little thing” and “BIG THING” was your son and three others said that they are going to make something up and have their friends tell.
ADV: To the mom the little thing is the big thing because..
Me: That’s what happened the little thing became the big thing.
ADV: That’s one reason why we’re here, because of that mom’s perception.
Me: But that is not the teacher’s fault. That is not something to fire a teacher for because a mom gets into her head that her son is being….you know, mom’s and kids can get things into their heads.
ADV: I don’t think you’re going to get fired over that…or anything. Is there anything inappropriate, since we’re talking about list of inappropriate things about the conversation that Ms. UNTAMED had with SILAS’s mom before that formal meeting.
HO: The other inappropriate statement was one that the students heard that you said something to the effect about being used to that.
Me: I didn’t say that.
HO: I wrote down what you said, but there are enough students saying to the contrary, not that you called her a slut…
Me: My words were, AGAIN? And that was it.
HO: I wrote that down. But based upon what the students are saying, that’s not what you said—according to the students’ statements.
ADVOCATE: It just takes one kid and then they all get on the bandwagon.
HO: Nobody’s saying she called her a slut. Nobody’s saying that.
ADVOCATE: The kids are making that conclusion and then it spreads like wildfire, and then before you know they make it a reality.
HO: They didn’t make it a reality. They didn’t make it a reality. There’s not one that saying she called her a slut.
ADVOCATE: or the equivalent of that.
Me: They were screaming that at me. So they backed down when they had to…
HO: Well they didn’t say it to me. I’m saying to you that in their mind whatever you said, it was like a slutty type insult…
Me: That was HOWARD MAHAN that said that, not me.
HO: And now you’re telling me to believe that one of the female students sitting right next to MADELENE cannot tell whether HOWARD said something or whether MADELENE said it.
Me: She can tell. If she testifies that HOWARD did it, she’s in trouble. She has to go to school with that kid for all of eighth grade. The rest of seventh grade and all of eighth grade.
HO: Why is she in trouble.
Me: Because these kids are bullies. These kids are bullies. If they can get a teacher fired, what can’t they do to a kid.
HO: OK. I’ve got to conclude this. (To ADVOCATE) If I have any questions on this I may call you back. A couple of follow up questions based on what you said.
180:00 MINUTES: END OF HEARING