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DOE Removes Eight Employees For Past Inappropriate Conduct With Children

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The city's Department of Education announced Thursday eight employees are being shown the door following a review of their work history.

It comes after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to revisit records dating back to 2000 of all DOE employees who were disciplined for inappropriate conduct with students.

Walcott says the eight employees were removed because they were not disciplined properly for their misconduct.

Four of them are teachers with tenure rights, and they were reassigned between March 1-2. They are:
• Christopher Azzoparti of I.S. 285 Meyer Levin in Brooklyn.
• Reynold Batson of P.S. 345 Patrolman Robert Bolden in Brooklyn.
• Jonathan Polayes, assigned to Baruch College Campus High School in Manhattan.
• Delroy Giscombe of A. Philip Randolph High School in Manhattan.

Another four DOE employees were fired between March 2-6. They are:
• Teacher's aide Mark Sears of Port Richmond High School on Staten Island.
• Paraprofessional Andre Harris of Humanities and Arts Magnet High School in Queens.
• Paraprofessional Simon Wilkins of J.H.S. 13 Jackie Robinson in Manhattan.
• Paraprofessional Frederick Wright of P.S. 96 Joseph Lanzetta in Manhattan.

Most of the cases involve the DOE employees saying inappropriate comments to students.

For example, Wright is accused of sending text messages about sexual matters to a male student, and Sears allegedly once asked a female student, "Is it your birthday? You look sexy."

Other cases involve employees touching students. Students and co-workers found through the Internet that Polayes had a history of allegedly touching students at several schools, dating back to 1994.

Wilkins allegedly twisted the nipples of four male students and DOE officials say each time he said "his mother did not give him enough leche, or milk." Another student said his testicles were touched by Wilkins.

In a more extreme case, Batson was accused of entering a boys' bathroom with a video camera and videotaping students as they urinated.

NY1 reached out to these employees for comment.

The chancellor also announced the creation of a new team, the Disciplinary Support Unit, to follow up with schools to make sure proper action is taken with employees engaged in bad behavior.

While cases dating back to 2000 are being reviewed, the statute of limitations prevents disciplinary action on cases older than three years. However, principals are being alerted of employees' cases dating from 2000 to 2009.

Currently, teachers with tenure rights cannot be fired without a hearing process and an arbitrator if one is requested, but the chancellor said in a conference call this afternoon that he wants to change that.

"This is in the hands, unfortunately, of an arbitrator, and I would like to have the ability to, in these type of cases, to be the final decision maker," Walcott said.

However, the teachers union fired back and said the DOE did not seem capable of handling these cases.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told reporters, "We have a zero-tolerance policy, UFT. We have a process where we deal suspensions and we want our investigations to happen, fast and fair, and if hearings have to be done in terms of discipline, the same thing. So we have given the Department of Ed the tools to do the things correctly. If they can't do it correctly, they need to look at themselves."

A total of seven DOE employees have been arrested since early February and charged with sex crimes involving children.

In the same period, three others have been accused of inappropriate but non-sexual contact with children.

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