How to handle a summons
We get calls on the speech hotline from members who have been summoned to report to the principal’s office for an interview that may lead to disciplinary action. If you are summoned to meet with the principal or other supervisor and the meeting can lead to disciplinary action, you are entitled to have union representation. If you are summoned, you must attend but should ask if the meeting could result in disciplinary action. If the answer is “yes,” “maybe” or even “I don’t know,” you should insist on having a union representative present and should not answer questions until and unless your representative is with you. An interview that is not held in accordance with these procedures cannot be made part of your personnel or school file, and any statements you make at such an interview cannot be used against you in any DOE proceeding.
If the meeting is related to general school matters such as attendance, lateness, or school policy, then the elected school chapter leader or district representative should attend with you. If the meeting pertains to speech therapy practices, paperwork or student attendance then you should call our speech chapter for assistance. Please note that you may need to postpone this meeting to make arrangements for me, as your speech chapter leader, to attend. If you are summoned, please call our hotline number immediately at 1-212-598-7774 and also send an email to me at Mbornemann@uft.org.
The procedures are different if you are summoned to a meeting outside your school. If you are summoned to meet with the DOE’s Office of Appeals and Reviews (OAR) or the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) you must contact your UFT borough office, which will send a representative to attend the hearing with you. Do not speak to any investigator at any time even if the investigator claims the matter is about a colleague or other staff member. All too often these officers will try to contact you at school and claim that it is just for general information on a case when in fact they are looking for information from you. Take their business card and call the borough office as soon as possible for important guidance and support.
If you are summoned by the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI), you should not answer any questions unless you are accompanied by an attorney, which your UFT borough office will help arrange for you. The allegations investigated by this office involve criminal activity, financial fraud or other serious matters. Not following these steps could end up hurting you in the end.
Corporal punishment and verbal abuse
It is very important that you understand the regulations on corporal punishment and verbal abuse. They are as follows:
Regulation of the Chancellor A-420 — Pupil Behavior and Discipline — Corporal Punishment: According to this regulation, "No corporal punishment shall be inflicted in any of the public schools, nor punishment of any kind tending to cause excessive fear of physical or mental distress. Violation of this bylaw shall constitute grounds for dismissal."
New York State Commissioner of Education - Regulations of the Commissioner: Section 100.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner defines corporal punishment as any act of physical force upon a pupil for the purpose of punishing that pupil.
Corporal punishment shall not mean the use of reasonable force to protect oneself, to protect another, to protect property or to restrain or remove.
Regulation of the Chancellor A-421 — Pupil Behavior and Discipline — Verbal Abuse: Verbal abuse of students is not corporal punishment, but it is behavior that is prohibited by Regulation of the Chancellor A-421. Verbal abuse includes:
- Language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
- Language that includes words denoting racial, ethnic, religious, gender, disability, or sexual orientation which tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress;
- Language that tends to threaten physical harm; and
- Language that tends to belittle or subject students to ridicule.
Sometimes speech teachers and other professionals are questioned because students misunderstand words that are used or are confused by jokes or comments. Always be mindful of what you say to students and how you say it. Students and other staff members can occasionally misinterpret well-meaning words. If there is any accusation of verbal abuse or corporal punishment, contact your school chapter leader who will alert your district representative also.
If you are called into the principal’s office regarding any accusation of verbal abuse or corporal punishment, you should follow the guidelines above regarding investigations. Insist on having a union representative present and do not answer questions until the union representative is with you at the meeting.
Understanding false accusations
UFT members have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct or physical abuse involving students. If you are falsely accused of any of these or other crimes and it is determined that the allegations were knowingly false when they were made, the DOE must remove all references of the allegations from your school personnel file, restore any lost pay with interest and, unless there are extraordinary reasons, permanently reassign the student from your class.
Through our agreement with the DOE, disciplinary actions will never be used to retaliate against whistleblowers, and any employee who knowingly makes a false allegation shall be subject to discipline.