Firing of Special Education Psychologist/ Age-Discrimination

Oct 5, 2016 by

Some say that the law isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That’s too harsh. It’s worth it. But not one penny more. Not when people in charge of enforcing it circumvent it or bastardize it altogether.

Age discrimination in the school system is a prime example. Even when an educator’s performance is not even alleged to have been impaired or compromised and they have done a first-rate job consistently for several decades, they often get forced into retirement by bullying supervisors who are emboldened by the invariable backup they get to the hilt by the Department of Education, whose chancellor is no younger than the educators being driven out under her watch.

Hardly ever do these cases garner publicity but they are endemic. One made the papers last week. A special education psychologist, who is around the age that Verdi was when he composed his greatest opera, says that her former boss kept demanding to know when she was retiring.

That question is out-of-line, but conceivably could have been made innocently, considering the psychologist’s longevity. But the intent was invidious. Because when the psychologist said that she had no plans to retire, her boss made some contrary comment and proceeded to fire her allegedly without explanation. When the boss was asked her version of what happened, she never replied to the reporter, according to the news story.

Described as “feisty”, a word perhaps meant as a compliment to older women but which is condescending, is suing the DOE. These lawsuits drag out and by the time hers is settled, President Chelsea Clinton will have completed her second term.

Although her appointed job as a psychologist was stolen from her, the litigant is still being paid as an “ATR” (Absent Teacher Reserve).   There are hundreds of them who are frequently circulated to different locations essentially as “substitutes.” A lop-sided proportion of  “ATR”s are senior educators who were cut loose from long-held positions they had held for many years for no reason related to job performance.

It’s a festering scandal. Their only consolation is that the teachers union negotiated that they still have, in a technical sense, their former occupation and are therefore still maintained on the payroll.  Astonishingly, there are people who actually resent any safety net, especially if it covers teachers.

Using the broadest and most generalized language, the Department of Education responded to the specific complaint of the special education psychologist, saying they “embrace diversity and know that our students benefit when they can learn from people of all ages, races and backgrounds.”

This is the verbal equivalent of stock footage. It is a statement that can be employed to fit countless scenarios and whitewash a hundred types of culpability. It is a public-relations driven dodge straight out of the DOE’s playbook. Its pages are dog-eared and wrinkled with crow’s feet.

Maybe it’s time to retire it?

Ron Isaac

 

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