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Betsy Combier

Help Us to Continue to Help Others »

The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Aaron Carr
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
Firing Bad Teachers and the Chicago Teacher's Union By Kristen Mcquery, Chicago Tribune
A Chicago Public Schools student attending a Southeast Side grammar school was 14 years old in 2012 when his teacher took him to a grocery store parking lot, and later a home her parents owned in Evergreen Park, for sexual encounters, CPS and Illinois State Board of Education records allege......It’s beyond time to end the job-protection racket perpetuated by the teachers union. This case is just one example.
From the desk of Editor Betsy Combier:

For 17 years I have been an observer, investigator, advocate, and counselor to maybe 1000 teachers, Assistant Principals, Principals, and parents. When I hear about an incident occurring in a school, the first thing I do is start looking into the backstory. I do not believe what I read.

Newspapers are sold because bad news travels fast, and sells. Good news not so much. The worse the news, the more people want to read about it. However, the person who knows the real truth is....I don't know. The people involved, for sure, believe that they know what happened. It is certainly possible someone who is an eyewitness can convince another person that the facts are exactly what he or she saw/wrote down/reported.

Not so fast.

Eyewitnesses are not as reliable as you might think, write Thomas Albright and Jed Rakoff (Washington Post January 30, 2015)., which is re-posted from the Washington Post below.

So now we can read about the sexual abuse of a 14-year old student in 2012 by his teacher. Did the boy have all the facts or make it up? The former employee fought the charges for three years, according to the Chicago Tribune, and then she resigned. Three years is a long, expensive time to try to exonerate yourself. That is my first thought.

Whatever really happened, it is the duty of the union to fight for a member, and it could be true that the boy made up the charges. We don't really know what happened. I look at the backstory of the cases where teachers in New York City are accused of heinous acts against a student, and I can report that most of the cases involve a student who wants attention or is a gang member trying to gain recognition.

The author of the article below urges:

"How about dropping the misinformation campaigns against children who bring forward allegations involving teachers? How about loosening up tenure guidelines that makes it difficult to fire bad actors? Can we get that in the contract, CTU? It’s beyond time to end the job-protection racket perpetuated by the teachers union. "

Angry people who despise unions as "job-protection rackets" may be correct in their belief that all educators with tenure are bad people protected by their union. But maybe they are wrong.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Column: Firing bad teachers. Can we get that in the contract, Chicago Teachers Union?

A Chicago Public Schools student attending a Southeast Side grammar school was 14 years old in 2012 when his teacher took him to a grocery store parking lot, and later a home her parents owned in Evergreen Park, for sexual encounters, CPS and Illinois State Board of Education records allege.

CPS officials got involved when a school employee two years later overheard the boy talking to friends about it. After a drawn-out hearing process lasting nearly three years, the accused teacher resigned in lieu of being fired. Law enforcement investigated, but no charges were brought.

The case starkly illustrates what the Tribune’s 2018 “Betrayed” series exposed: a system of bureaucrats, lawyers and Chicago Teachers Union officials more motivated to protect teachers’ jobs than advocate for abused students. As CTU fights Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the bargaining table for more social workers and nurses inside schools to support kids, its own posture involving abuse allegations reveals a deep hypocrisy. When a teacher stands to lose his or her job for egregious behavior, whose side is the union on?

In the case of the 14-year-old, the teacher’s attorney from Poltrock & Poltrock, a firm CTU regularly hires for legal assistance, repeatedly tried to discredit the student and poke holes in his story. In documents sent to the Illinois State Board of Education in 2017, the lawyer called the boy a “pathological liar” who “thought it was cool to tell his classmates that he had sex with a teacher.”

At one point, the attorney, listed in records as Kurtis Hale, wrote that the boy should not be believed because he showed a lack of understanding about different sex acts — oral sex versus intercourse. The attorney expressed exasperation that the boy “with a straight face” could mix up those details during multiple interviews with investigators.

“What 14-year-old boy would ever forget receiving (oral sex) from a teacher?” the attorney wrote in a document footnote.

Right. Because an adult preying on a child amounts to bragging rights, not assault. This is what your union dues are partially funding, Chicago teachers.

A neutral hearing officer at ISBE found the boy’s testimony credible and recommended the teacher be dismissed. There was enough evidence to fire the teacher who, it also was alleged, sent the student dozens of texts and at least one partially nude photo that the boy’s sister saw on his phone. The boy accurately enough described the teacher’s car and the house in Evergreen Park where she drove him during the summer of 2012. The hearing officer asserted in paperwork it was the teacher, not the student, who wasn’t truthful about what happened. Yet the teacher still got years of protection from CTU and through its attorney, fighting for her reinstatement and tearing apart the credibility of an abused kid.

“Even though (the boy) was an eager and willing participant in the sexual activity, he was a minor, only 14 years old, and a former student of (the teacher) at the time," the hearing officer wrote. “For a teacher to take advantage of that status and control to engage in an inappropriate sexual relationship is at least negligent and arguably immoral, if not cruel or criminal.”

The Tribune’s “Betrayed” series documented 523 cases where police investigated reports of children being sexually assaulted or abused inside city public schools from 2008 to 2017. That data didn’t include assaults outside school buildings so the 14-year-old boy likely doesn’t fall into the statistics. How many more victims are out there?

Part of the series also exposed deep flaws in the investigation process, which can re-traumatize kids by cross-examining them: “Even in cases where school employees acted swiftly, they subjected young victims to repeated interrogations, inflicting more psychological pain and defying basic principles intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation,” the Tribune found.

In the case of the 14-year-old, CTU’s attorney demonstrated abysmal comprehension of sexual abuse allegations involving children. He maligned the student, repeatedly, to protect a tenured teacher accused of potentially criminal behavior. From records obtained via CPS and ISBE, it’s clear that law enforcement, child services, CPS investigators and attorneys put the student through numerous, painful interviews.

CTU didn’t respond to my inquiries, by the way.

“It’s pure and simple abuse,” says Chicago Ald. James Cappleman, 46th, a former social worker and therapist who has been vigilant about the need to better train school staff who encounter allegations of sexual abuse. “It re-traumatizes the child. It’s completely wrong.”

In his experience working with children and teens, “it would never even dawn on us that an attorney would cross-examine a minor child.”

It’s unclear what, if any, support or therapy the student received once the allegations became known. One filing suggests he dropped out of high school and was already a father a few years post-incident. No wonder.

CTU officials bristle at any suggestion they aren’t proactive in swiftly disciplining and terminating bad teachers. During bargaining talks, they position their requests for more social workers, nurses and librarians as student-centered.

How about dropping the misinformation campaigns against children who bring forward allegations involving teachers? How about loosening up tenure guidelines that makes it difficult to fire bad actors? Can we get that in the contract, CTU? It’s beyond time to end the job-protection racket perpetuated by the teachers union. This case is just one example.

Kristen McQueary is a member of the Tribune Editorial Board.

Letters: Make it easier to fire bad Chicago teachers
OCT 03, 2019 | 4:29 PM

Kudos to columnist Kristen McQueary for her spot-on question to the Chicago Teachers Union about making it easier in any new contract to fire bad teachers (“Firing bad teachers. Can we get that in the contract, CTU?,” Sept. 29). I suspect most readers join me in not being the least bit surprised that she didn’t receive a response from the union.

She cites the horrors of assault and physical abuse suffered by students. Yet there is another kind of abuse bad teachers, “bad actors” in McQueary’s words, inflict on their students that can also affect them the rest of their lives: inferior teaching, which leads to inferior learning, which leads to inferior opportunities as the kids plot their life’s paths.

It is way past time that good teachers — and that’s the huge majority of them — get paid well and rewarded for good scholastic results. It is also way past time that poor teachers — the bad apples who spoil the barrel for fellow teachers and students alike — stop having the opportunity to hinder their students’ futures with inferior instruction.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned a time when his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Those of us interested in quality education for all envision a time when teachers will be judged not by the number of years they’ve been teaching but by the content of their instruction and success of their students.

Such a situation would be a classic “win-win” — a winning proposition for the vast majority of good teachers, and more important, for Chicago’s school kids. It is a “lose-lose” only for McQueary’s “bad actors” — teachers who fail their kids, either morally or scholastically.

The CTU has the opportunity to prove once and for all that it puts the welfare of Chicago’s many outstanding teachers and well-being of the city’s school kids at the top of their list. McQueary supplies the simple remedy: loosen up the tenure guidelines that make it almost impossible to fire the bad actors and substandard teachers. Tribune readers should look through the smokescreen of CTU rhetoric and focus on how the union deals with these real problems in the classroom.

— Jeanne Allen,

Founder and CEO, Center for Education Reform, Washington

The teachers union’s real mission
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said the current contract negotiations are a test for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to see “which side ... she’s going to choose to come down on” (“Lightfoot veers from Rahm tack with union,” Sept. 29)

That’s the problem. There should be only one side — the side of kids. As a parent with three kids in Chicago public schools, I am appalled how union leadership holds our kids hostage — pretending it’s about the kids — when it’s about money and jobs.

As we teach our kids to be honest and authentic, just own it.

— William Choslovsky, Chicago

Eyewitnesses aren’t as reliable as you might think
By Thomas Albright and Jed Rakoff

Thomas Albright is a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Jed Rakoff is a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York.

Over the past quarter-century, more than 1,400 people convicted of serious crimes have been proved innocent, according to the University of Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations. But why were these people wrongly convicted? In a great many cases, one significant factor was faulty eyewitness identifications.

Eyewitness testimony can be extremely powerful. When a witness with no motive to lie swears under oath that he or she personally saw a defendant commit a crime, it is hard not to believe the testimony. But in recent decades, extensive scientific research — which we reviewed while co-chairing the National Research Council committee that wrote the recent report “Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification” — have identified a number of factors that can lead an eyewitness to make a mistake. It is time our legal system started making use of this knowledge.

Some of these factors, such as poor lighting or distractions, may seem obvious. But others, such as the effect of stress, are less so. Still other factors — such as the psychological influence of a police officer’s body language as an eyewitness views a lineup, or how a witness’s recollection of a person in a lineup can merge over time with memories of the original event — are so subtle that studies are only beginning to reveal their effects.

When judges and juries lack awareness of the factors that can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, they can make mistakes.

In 1967, for example, before most of this research, the Supreme Court ruled, in Manson v. Braithwaite, that the reliability of an eyewitness’s identification, and hence its admissibility as evidence, depends in part on the level of certainty that the witness expresses when identifying a defendant in court. This, in the view of the court, was simply common sense.

But the court was wrong. Careful studies have demonstrated that, regardless of the level of certainty an eyewitness expresses at the time of original identification (which itself may be affected by numerous factors), a witness’s confidence in the correctness of the identification steadily increases over time. This occurs for psychological and cognitive reasons that have nothing to do with the accuracy of the identification, such as reinforcement of a witness’s beliefs by law enforcement and accounts of events promulgated by attorneys and news media.

If we want to avoid making the same tragic mistakes again and again, all of us — police, prosecutors, judges, jurors, public officeholders and the public — must act on this research. Here is how:

First, lineups should be administered according to the same kind of “double-blind” standards used in scientific testing. For example, the police officer administering the lineup should not be involved in the investigation. An eyewitness should be told that the lineup may or may not include a suspect and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether someone is identified. In addition, lineups should be videotaped.

Second, the level of confidence the eyewitness expresses at the time of the initial identification should be documented and made available at trial.

Third, judges should be educated about the well-documented failings of lineups. This knowledge will put judges in a better position to evaluate whether eyewitness identification evidence should be included in a particular case.

Fourth, through expert testimony or judicial instructions, jurors should be educated about the many factors that can affect eyewitness identification and that those need to be considered in evaluating the reliability of an eyewitness’s testimony.

With these reforms, the number of mistaken eyewitness identifications would be greatly reduced, and judges and jurors would be able to make more accurate assessments of eyewitness testimony. This would go a long way toward ensuring that our criminal justice system gets to the truth, for the benefit of us all.

Read more on this from Opinions:

Radley Balko: New National Academy of Sciences study critical of eyewitness testimony

The Post’s View: The Ferguson decision underscores the need for police body cameras

Ruth Marcus: The Ferguson case is still an enigma

Eugene Robinson: Dehumanizing Ferguson

Convicting the Innocent

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation