Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jude's Story


I met Jude (not her real name) on April 7, 2009, the second day of my internment in the Rubber Room.  We sat side by side for the remaining months of 2008-2009 and for the entire 2009-2010 academic year.  Slowly, over time, she shared stories about her childhood, her family, and her career as an elementary school teacher.  I have chosen to write about her case because it is the most abusive account that I have heard up until now.  Although there was no rape involved, Jude brought Gertrude Perkins to the front of my mind and out of the dusty recesses where she had resided along with other myths, legends, and tales of earlier times.

At first, Jude's life sounds like a true American success story--a black woman who is the beneficiary of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jude grew up in a Bronx neighborhood known for drugs and violence.  However, she wasn't involved in gangs, didn't take drugs, and never committed a crime.  She did, however, graduate from Bronx High School of Science.

If you are from New York, you just sat up and took notice when I mentioned the name of her high school.  If you're not from New York, you'll need a little more explanation.

Bronx Science is one of several specialized high schools that are very difficult to get into.  There are a limited number of seats for thousands of applicants, and a child must take a difficult test and get a very high score in order to get in.  The test--not race, religion, gender, or references--determines whether or not a child is admitted.  It's not who you know, but what you know.  The screening is rigorous, and once you get in you have to work hard to stay in.

Jude graduated from high school in the top 2% of high school graduates in New York City.  She went on to graduate from Hunter College with a major in sociology and a minor in communications.  She then decided to be a teacher and chose to teach in the Bronx in a neighborhood controlled by a gang called the Latin Kings.  She immediately began working on her master's degree and completed it within two years.  At the same time that she started her teaching career and her master's degree, she married and started a family.  Five years later, with two young children, she decided to buy some land on Long Island and build a house of her own design.

As the 1996-1997 school year opened, Jude found herself in an new house, a new neighborhood, and a new working environment.  She had transferred to a school in Queens to make the commute easier.  Her children made the transition easily and began to win honors and medals in their new school on Long Island.  Soon a third child was on the way.

As the millennium approached Judith found herself married with three children; a homeowner; a respected teacher with a masters degree.  She had achieved the American Dream.

During the next ten years she would survive one assault after another, until that dream, like a battle- ground flag, is tattered and torn.  However, the one who carries it is standing tall and has no intention of giving up.

It all began with a crime...

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Rape of Gertrude Perkins

Late one night a young black woman named Gertrude Perkins was walking home from the bus stop when she was accosted by two uniformed white men in a marked police car.  They forced her into the car, drove to a secluded area, and raped her.  Hours later, she was dumped back at the bus stop with the dire warning to keep her mouth shut or else.

Gertrude then faced the choice that every rape victim has--to keep quiet or to report the crime and try to bring the rapists to justice.  Only survivors of violent crimes know how difficult it is to come forward and offer evidence against their perpetrators.  The rest of us can only imagine.  Gertrude had the additional burden of having to go to the police to file a charge against two of their own.

In New York City we have support for rape victims--hot lines, advocates, specially trained hospital staff, female police officers, etc., but the assault on Gertrude did not take place in modern day New York City.  It took place in Montgomery, Alabama in the year 1949.  The only support available to her was from the rest of the black community--especially her church.

Two days after the assault, Gertrude visited the law offices of a pair of young, white attorneys who had recently received their law degrees courtesy of the GI Bill.  One of them had a two year old daughter--me. 

They listened to her story, became convinced that she was telling the truth, and decided to take her case.   Their job was to help find out the names of the two policemen so that a warrant could be served against them.  That shouldn't have been a problem.  In 1949 the Montgomery police department had two marked police cars manned with two officers each.  One car patrolled the white section of town, and the other patrolled the black section.  The rapists had made no attempt to cover their faces, so Gertrude would have no trouble identifying them.  However, a warrant for their arrest could not be served without their names,  and the police department was refusing to release their names.

The lawyers filed a writ of mandamus for the Montgomery police department to provide the names of the two police officers who had patrolled the black section of town on the night of Gertrude's rape.  The police refused.  There was no one to enforce the writ in this pre Civil Rights era.  Not only that, but the lawyers began to receive death threats.  A Ku Klux Klan cross was burned at one of their homes.  A funeral wreath was delivered to their office.

Similar threats were obviously being made against Gertrude, who was finally forced to stop her attempts to bring her attackers to justice.  There is no happy, feel good ending to this story.

A few years later, however, the black people got together and organized the bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give a white man her seat.   With all due respect to Rosa, you don't get that many people mobilized based on one incident.  Most of the blacks in Montgomery knew exactly what had happened to Gertrude Perkins some years before.  There had been other rapes before and after Gertrude's, and southern activists, including Rosa Parks had been active in trying to get justice for the victims. 

I grew up in an era of protest and real change.  It seems natural to me to question an order if there is something fishy about it.  It seems natural to speak up against injustice and to pressure the authorities to take action against wrong doings.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Martin Luther King, Jr.

So what does the Gertrude Perkins case have to do with the Teacher Witch Hunts?  Rest assured that I don't put anything on this blog that is not somehow related.   There are obvious differences between the rape of Gertrude Perkins and the destruction of hundreds of professional careers, but there are also very significant similarities.

1.  There is a crime.
2.  There is a cover-up, a need for secrecy, a control of information.
3.  There's a conspiracy to maintain the cover up by the very authorities who should be bringing the criminals to justice.
4.  The conspiracy reaches from the highest to the lowest levels of the justice system.
5.  The motive for the crime and the cover-up is greed for money and power.
6.  Anyone who tries to report or solve the crime is threatened and/or attacked.
7.  Anyone who blows the whistle on the cover up and conspiracy is threatened and/or attacked.

In future blogs I will be telling the stories of selected Rubber Room Detainees.  Each one has these seven elements in common with Gertrude's case.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rubber Room 2 -- From the Fire to the Frying Pan

Last spring, I was very close to throwing in the towel and retiring.  I had passed the magic age of 62, and had 27 years in, so my pension would cover my living expenses.  I was eligible for social security, had lived frugally, and had saved.  I was in a good place financially and in a bad place emotionally, physically, and psychologically.   But then they announced that there would be a Rubber Room 2, and I just had to stay to see the sequel.

I hated sitting in the Rubber Room.  What a waste of life!  My life.  Minute by minute.  I tried doing something productive--reading, writing, learning something new.  It was impossible.  I couldn't concentrate.  It was very loud most of the time.  Some people dealt with the strain by socializing loudly and constantly.  Some people were clearly emotionally disturbed and acted out in very bizarre ways. (See Chaz's post of September 15, 2010)

It would have made for very interesting and even amusing blog posts, but I held off.  Anything negative that I wrote would have been used against all of us:  "And that's why those people are there".  You can't blame this blog for the closing of the Rubber Rooms.  But now that they are closed, the stories will start coming out.

And that's what I want Bloomberg, Klein, and their Slave-Minded Administrators to know.  Eventually the stories will come out.  Kids who are in elementary school today will one day write their dissertations about the New York City Teacher Witch Hunts and your part in it.  You can try to bury what you did, but you have generated too much paper for that to be possible now.  You have people like me who will dedicate the rest of their lives to collecting and dispersing it as widely as possible. Try explaining that you did it all for the good of the little children, or because you were just following orders.  I want to live to see you squirm as you try to explain away your lies.

400 years later they are still writing about the Salem Witch Trials.  The prosecutors are seen only as persecutors.   The same thing will happen to you. 

As for the UFT leadership.  If there is/was collusion between the UFT and the DOE, as many believe, then that will inevitably come out too.

So as I was saying, I was seriously contemplating retirement, but then came the news that the Rubber Rooms would be closed as of June 28, and that all reassigned teachers would be re-reassigned to other locations where they would actually be given work to do.  No more sitting on their asses all day doing nothing.  I didn't want to miss that.

It's only been a week, but this is what has happened so far.  Before the beginning of the school year, every reassigned teacher was supposed to receive a notice telling them where to show up on September 7, 2010.   That didn't happen for a large, but undisclosed number of teachers.

On September 13, as other teachers were welcoming their students, we were being welcomed in various DOE administrative offices.  Most of the administrators in these offices had been given very little, if any warning that we were coming.  From what I have heard, all the teachers were treated with respect by administrators and workers in the new offices.   However, we have been assigned to do low-level, menial jobs that have nothing to do with teaching.  We are working side by side with people earning much less.  Actually, they are working and we are just sitting there, waiting to be told what to do. 

Many of my rubber room colleagues look back fondly on Rubber Room 1.  I do not.  But so far, from what I can see, Rubber Room 2 is designed to have the same purpose as Rubber Room 1 -- Teacher Abuse.

I still haven't been charged with anything.  I want my charges.  Paper, you know.  Lies written down in black and white and signed and dated.  History.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Michael Moore: "If the 'Mosque' Isn't Built..."

I'm reblogging (as opposed to retweeting, which I have not gotten used to yet) Michael Moore's comments on the controversy about mosques being built in close proximity to the World Trade Center.

I do this because I am against all witch hunts, especially after becoming the target of Bloomberg's Witch Hunt Against Teachers.

September 11th, 2010 9:40 AM

If the 'Mosque' Isn't Built, This Is No Longer America

Muslims in Iran hold vigil to honor those killed on 9/11 and to support America (September, 2001 – back when the world supported us)
OpenMike 9/11/10
Michael Moore's daily blog

I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.
I want it built on Ground Zero.
Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.
There's been so much that's been said about this manufactured controversy, I really don't want to waste any time on this day of remembrance talking about it. But I hate bigotry and I hate liars, and so in case you missed any of the truth that's been lost in this, let me point out a few facts:
1. I love the Burlington Coat Factory. I've gotten some great winter coats there at a very reasonable price. Muslims have been holding their daily prayers there since 2009. No one ever complained about that. This is not going to be a "mosque," it's going to be a community center. It will have the same prayer room in it that's already there. But to even have to assure people that "it's not going to be mosque" is so offensive, I now wish they would just build a 111-story mosque there. That would be better than the lame and disgusting way the developer has left Ground Zero an empty hole until recently. The remains of over 1,100 people still haven't been found. That site is a sacred graveyard, and to be building another monument to commerce on it is a sacrilege. Why wasn't the entire site turned into a memorial peace park? People died there, and many of their remains are still strewn about, all these years later.
2. Guess who has helped the Muslims organize their plans for this community center? The JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER of Manhattan! Their rabbi has been advising them since the beginning. It's been a picture-perfect example of the kind of world we all want to live in. Peter Stuyvessant, New York's "founder," tried to expel the first Jews who arrived in Manhattan. Then the Dutch said, no, that's a bit much. So then Stuyvessant said ok, you can stay, but you cannot build a synagogue anywhere in Manhattan. Do your stupid Friday night thing at home. The first Jewish temple was not allowed to be built until 1730. Then there was a revolution, and the founding fathers said this country has to be secular -- no religious nuts or state religions. George Washington (inaugurated around the corner from Ground Zero) wanted to make a statement about this his very first year in office, and wrote this to American Jews:
"The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy -- a policy worthy of imitation. ...

"It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens ...

"May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants -- while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."
3. The Imam in charge of this project is the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. Read about his past here.
4. Around five dozen Muslims died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Hundreds of members of their families still grieve and suffer. The 19 killers did not care what religion anyone belonged to when they took those lives.
5. I've never read a sadder headline in the New York Times than the one on the front page this past Monday: "American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?" That should make all of us so ashamed that even a single one of our fellow citizens should ever have to worry about if they "belong" here.
6. There is a McDonald's two blocks from Ground Zero. Trust me, McDonald's has killed far more people than the terrorists.
7. During an economic depression or a time of war, fascists are extremely skilled at whipping up fear and hate and getting the working class to blame "the other" for their troubles. Lincoln's enemies told poor Southern whites that he was "a Catholic." FDR's opponents said he was Jewish and called him "Jewsevelt." One in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and 41% of Republicans don't believe he was born here.
8. Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh blew up?
9. Let's face it, all religions have their whackos. Catholics have O'Reilly, Gingrich, Hannity and Clarence Thomas (in fact all five conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court are Catholic). Protestants have Pat Robertson and too many to list here. The Mormons have Glenn Beck. Jews have Crazy Eddie. But we don't judge whole religions on just the actions of their whackos. Unless they're Methodists.
10. If I should ever, God forbid, perish in a terrorist incident, and you or some nutty group uses my death as your justification to attack or discriminate against anyone in my name, I will come back and haunt you worse than Linda Blair marrying Freddy Krueger and moving into your bedroom to spawn Chucky. John Lennon was right when he asked us to imagine a world with "nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too." I heard Deepak Chopra this week say that "God gave humans the truth, and the devil came and he said, 'Let's give it a name and call it religion.' " But John Adams said it best when he wrote a sort of letter to the future (which he called "Posterity"): "Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it." I'm guessing ol' John Adams is up there repenting nonstop right now.
Friends, we all have a responsibility NOW to make sure that Muslim community center gets built. Once again, 70% of the country (the same number that initially supported the Iraq War) is on the wrong side and want the "mosque" moved. Enormous pressure has been put on the Imam to stop his project. We have to turn this thing around. Are we going to let the bullies and thugs win another one? Aren't you fed up by now? When would be a good time to take our country back from the haters?
I say right now. Let's each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It's a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt to If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C'mon everyone, let's pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.
I lost a co-worker on 9/11. I write this today in his memory.

"The man who speaks of the enemy / Is the enemy himself."
                                                                        -- Bertolt Brecht

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Confusing First Day Back for Rubber Room Detainees

Some people like myself had received notification of where and when to show up while others had not. However, by September 7 there had been enough networking among us, that most people had some idea of where to go.

I was to report to the DOE Administrative Offices at 45-18 Court Square, Long Island City, NY 11101. I didn't put that address on this blog because I predicted that quite a few people would be sent there, and I didn't want any unofficial welcoming committees waiting to harass us. But I needn't have worried. The only gauntlet we had to navigate was composed of huge vans full of film equipment and a film crew setting up to shoot somewhere in the vicinity. Breakfast was being served to the crew by craft services right outside the door of 45-18.

Once inside I followed the signs to "Reassignment Staff Orientation" and found a room packed with people--clearly more than the DOE had bargained for. I would guess that there were at least 200 people, maybe more. A question and answer session was drawing to a close, but it was clear that some people had shown up without assignments. Everyone was seated, orderly, and patient--after all most of us had been through many such Board of Ed snafus. The administrative staff looked somewhat nervous to be in close proximity to so many "Reassigned Teachers", probably because of the picture painted of us by yellow journalists, but they obviously had nothing to worry about from this crowd--other than the fact that it was a fire hazard to have that many people in one room.

It would seem that the whole purpose of calling us there was to give us the address of the site where we would be working. Before they started calling us up to get our new assignments, a UFT representative spoke to us for about 2 minutes and gave us the essential information that we might have to punch in and out, if that is what everybody else at our new site was doing. Yes, that was the full extent of the information provided to us by our union representatives, and I am sure that everyone there was just as grateful as I was for their reassuring support.

After receiving my new assignment I was free to go, and I was told not to show up at the new site until Monday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Advice From TAGNYC

If you are a Rubber Room detainee who has not received notice of where to go, check out Education Notes Online