Saturday, April 7, 2012

When does teacher's touch constitute abuse?

The New York City Education Department wanted to fire Michael Dalton, a music teacher in Washington Heights, after its investigators said that he had placed three third-grade boys on his lap in what they considered an inappropriate manner. 

He had tickled them in their midsection, the city’s investigative report said. He even cradled one boy, and cooed a lullaby, before kissing him on the forehead, the report said. 

But wait, said Mr. Dalton, when he finally had a chance to defend himself.  

“The facts regarding Mr. Dalton demonstrate a clear case of disparate treatment,” the arbitrator, Bonnie Siber Weinstock, wrote in July 2010. She ruled that the tickling and kissing were inappropriate, but not sexual. Ruing the lack of clear standards on what school employees could and could not do, she rejected the city’s attempt to fire Mr. Dalton and instead fined him $2,000.

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