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Principal Jill Bloomberg Spoke Out Against the NYC Department of Education For Racial Injustice, Then is Investigated. She Sued.
The principal of Park Slope Collegiate, a secondary school in Brooklyn, said she is being improperly investigated for engaging in communist activities and for recruiting students to advance her political causes. In response, the principal, Jill Bloomberg, filed a lawsuit against the city's Department of Education.
   Jill Bloomberg   
From Editor Betsy Combier:

The New York City Department of Education always retaliates against anyone who dares to speak against the agency.

This is what happened to Jill Bloomberg, Principal of Park Slope Collegiate in Brooklyn New York.
Then she sued the Department for retaliation:

Jill Bloomberg Order To Show cause
Affirmation - Attorney Maria Chickedantz
Charity Guerra - Opposition
DOE-Motion for a SURR Reply
Defendants' Memorandum of Law

The NYC Department of Education Gets A Green Light To Retaliate Against Park Slope Collegiate Principal Jill Bloomberg

Investigation of activist principal has free-speech advocates asking what politics are allowed at school

The strange saga of a Park Slope principal accused of promoting communism took another turn Wednesday, when her request for a temporary halt to the probe against her was denied.

Jill Bloomberg, principal of Park Slope Collegiate, is known for her activism, particularly around the issue of school segregation. But the Department of Education says now she’s gone too far by sharing her political views at school and “actively recruiting” students into a communist organization.

“We lost the battle, not the war,” said Bloomberg’s attorney Jeanne Mirer after the judge’s decision to allow the investigation to proceed.

The war, it seems, will partly depend on whether Bloomberg violated D-130 — a Chancellor’s regulation that prohibits school employees from “being involved in any activities, including fundraising, on behalf of any candidate, candidates, slate of candidates or political organization/committee during working hours.”

The city claims, among other allegations, that Bloomberg violated the regulation by advocating on behalf of the Progressive Labor Party, a political organization with communist ties, at school. Bloomberg denies that and says she isn’t a member herself. But the case raises a larger question of what the regulation is meant to cover.

Mirer says a close read suggests it only bars election-related political activity — campaigning for a candidate, for instance — and not the type of organizing of which Bloomberg is accused.

If it did cover non-electoral politics, she said in court Wednesday, that would create a slippery slope for any educator who dared to voice a political view. “Any ideological belief could be the subject of a violation,” she warned.

Judge Paul Gardephe seemed unmoved by her argument. “I read the relevant parts [of D-130],” he said. “This lawsuit is not about whether D-130 is fair.”

But Mirer is not alone in worrying about how the regulation is being applied. Arthur Eisenberg, legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, is advising Mirer and has his own concerns about the free speech issues at play.

According to Eisenberg, the rules are the same for students, teachers and principals: “It’s well-established that school officials do not lose their First Amendment rights to speak out as citizens even when they are in school,” he said. “The standard is they can’t speak out in ways that are disruptive to the functioning of the school.”

Eisenberg declined to speculate on whether or not Bloomberg might have done that, but he said he was confident that D-130 could only apply to electoral politics.

A broader interpretation, he said, “puts the DOE in the position of having to regulate issue-oriented speech in ways that make it difficult to know how and where to draw the line.” Limiting free speech on issues that are political in nature, he said, could potentially impact student clubs that deal with gay rights, for instance, environmental causes, or racism. “And we know that can’t be right,” he said.

Eisenberg also questioned another line in the regulation quoted in the city’s court documents, which calls for a “posture of complete neutrality” on political candidates. Even if that were possible, he said, it wouldn’t be desirable.

“The obligation of an academic or teacher is to engage in critical judgment and to support those judgements with reasoning and fact,” Eisenberg said. “And that may be inconsistent with a principle of absolute neutrality.”

We asked the city’s law department what it made of Mirer’s argument that D-130 was meant to be more narrow in scope. Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the department, said he wasn’t familiar with argument and couldn’t comment.

Outspoken Principal On Racial Justice Accuses City of Retaliation
May 2, 2017 · by Yasmeen Khan

The principal of Park Slope Collegiate, a secondary school in Brooklyn, said she is being improperly investigated for engaging in communist activities and for recruiting students to advance her political causes. In response, the principal, Jill Bloomberg, filed a lawsuit against the city's Department of Education.

The suit contends that the investigation is in retaliation for recent, negative comments about the Department of Education.

Bloomberg told reporters on Monday that "my (political) activities have been so public and so transparent" that it is an "absurdity" to think she would be secretly trying to promote a political cause.

As principal of Park Slope Collegiate, Bloomberg is well-known for her years of speaking out on issues of racial justice and for specifically calling on the city's school leaders to address segregation.

But earlier this year, Bloomberg more pointedly accused the Department of Education of discrimination when it allocated fewer resources for sports teams to her mostly black and Latino students than it did to another school in the building that enrolled more white students, according to her legal complaint.

Soon after, the Office of Special Investigations, which is part of the Department of Education, began investigating claims made by an anonymous tip: that Bloomberg engaged in communist activities through the Progressive Labor Party and recruited students "to participate in organizational activities, including marches for her political organization," according to court documents filed by the city.

Those documents show Bloomberg is being investigated for several issues. Among them is an allegation that her husband filmed a documentary for an organization associated with the Progressive Labor Party, and that students and staff at the school "were included in the documentary without their authorization." The city also says that there may be a conflict of interest, because the documentary was screened at the school.

There are other allegations, including that a mandated course is not being taught and that "students who voice opinions different from those of plaintiff are not allowed to express them."

Bloomberg's lawyers have not yet responded to the city filing.

But in an initial hearing on the case on Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Bloomberg's attorneys called the investigation dangerous because of its vague allegations. Bloomberg, school staff and parents said the investigation is also creating a chilling effect at the school on speech related to social justice. The hearing was attended by nearly a hundred of Bloomberg's supporters.

The city argued that its Office of Special Investigations had a responsibility to examine the claims, which would violate academic policy if true. According to city regulations, educators must "maintain a posture of neutrality" when it comes to political organizations and candidates. There is nothing explicitly about political speech in the regulations.

Some New York City educators have said it is unclear to them where the line is between supporting the experiences of their students, many of whom who are black, immigrants and Muslims, and upholding city policy on politics, especially in the current, charged atmosphere.

For example, some teachers who have posted signs that say "Black Lives Matter" or "Immigrants Are Welcome" in their classrooms reported to WNYC that they were told to take them down.

Bloomberg is asking the court to stop the city's investigation while her lawsuit continues. A ruling is expected on Wednesday.

Is Park Slope principal Jill Bloomberg under investigation for ‘communist activities’? Here’s what we know about the odd allegations
Chalkbeat 5/3/17

Jill Bloomberg, the outspoken and popular principal of Park Slope Collegiate, appeared in federal court Monday to ask a judge to temporarily halt a Department of Education investigation against her.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Bloomberg alleges that the city launched its probe in retaliation for her activism on behalf of her students. “What speech is prohibited?” she asked outside the courtroom. “The speech I am most known for is anti-racism.”

The investigation started, according to the suit, soon after she complained to the Department of Education about how sports teams were allocated to the four different schools that comprise the John Jay Campus in Park Slope, where her school is based. Bloomberg wrote that Millennium Brooklyn, the school with the largest percentage of white students, has a separate sports program shared with its affiliated Manhattan high school, and together they had more teams than the other schools in the building combined.

In March, the suit alleges, an investigator from the Office of Special Investigations, an arm of the DOE, visited Park Slope Collegiate and told Assistant Principal Carla Laban that the investigation pertains to “communist activities taking place at the school.”

The city denies any retaliation against Bloomberg. It argues that it first received a confidential complaint in May 2016 that Bloomberg was “actively recruiting students to participate in a political party,” later identified as the Progressive Labor Party. (The website for that party does acknowledge communist ties; Bloomberg says she is not a member.)

Bloomberg’s alleged political advocacy is a violation of two Chancellor’s Regulations, the city argues, which “prohibit the use of school facilities, equipment and supplies on behalf of political organizations.”

Bloomberg’s attorney Jeanne Mirer said in court that the allegations were false, and were having a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of both Bloomberg and her colleagues.

“People who support civil rights and integration have long been called communists,” Mirer told the judge. “That’s why this investigation is so dangerous.”

Teachers, students and other supporters of Bloomberg, many wearing matching black anti-racism T-shirts, lined the walls of the courtroom. At one point, the city’s attorney suggested that the mere presence of so many supporters was proof that the investigation hadn’t had a chilling effect on school staff, prompting murmurs of disapproval from those gathered.

When the hearing adjourned, Bloomberg’s supporters gathered outside the courtroom.

“I’ve worked for her for over a decade,” said Sarah Vega, a special education teacher at the school. “I’ve never seen her furthering any political agenda whatsoever. She fights against racism, but I don’t really consider that partisan politics.”

Maya, 13, an eighth-grader at Park Slope Collegiate, also backs Bloomberg. “It’s just upsetting that she’s being accused of stating her own political views when she’s just stating the facts that racism is here,” she said.

“I don’t see what that has to do with communism,” her mother agreed.

At least one parent at the hearing took a more neutral stance. “So far, I believe the procedures are being conducted fairly and hopefully we’ll have a fair outcome,” said Josh Eckert-Chu, whose son is a sixth-grader at the school.

Judge Paul Gardarphe will rule on Wednesday whether to let the investigation proceed. The city’s Law Department declined to say what the penalty against Bloomberg might be if she is found to have broken any rules.


© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation