New York Daily News: Backing of UFT is deal with sickos and perverts

Throughout most of the country, the vital cause of education reform is progressing in fits and starts.

Throughout most of the country, the vital cause of education reform is progressing in fits and starts.

But here in New York City, home to 1.1 million schoolchildren, parents have watched with dismay as the city’s mayoral race has turned into a contest to see who can oppose reform the loudest.

As we learned last week, the victor is Bill Thompson, who won the coveted endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers after months of obsequious pandering by all the Democratic candidates.

The endorsement of the city teachers union is a double-edged sword for Thompson — he’s in line to benefit from the union’s political muscle but therefore must also say where he stands on the union’s most toxic position: protecting sexual predators in the classroom.The UFT claims to have zero tolerance for inappropriate sexual behavior by teachers and school employees.

Yet they spent the last year fighting a new state law that would make it easier for school administrators to fire instructors who present a clear threat to city public school students.

RELATED: SEX PREDATORS REMAIN IN NYC SCHOOLS: GROUP

Take, for example, the shocking case of Christopher Asch, a former New York City school librarian. This past April 15, the press reported that Asch had been arrested and charged with plotting to kidnap, torture and rape women and children.

It wasn’t the first time that Asch made headlines. In 2009, Asch was found to have engaged in multiple separate incidents of inappropriate touching of students while he worked at Stuyvesant High School.

During his arbitration hearing, Asch admitted he attended two meetings of NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association, an organization that advocates legalizing sex between men and young boys.

Despite the Department of Education’s attempts to have Asch fired, the arbitrator overseeing the case gave him a mere six-month suspension and ordered him to seek counseling.

Unfortunately, this was not the only time the arbitration process has proven inadequate to deal with cases of sexual misconduct in the classroom. In the last seven years, investigators have found enough evidence to recommend termination in a staggering 128 cases of sexual misconduct by teachers or school employees.

RELATED: RAPED GIRL’S FAMILY WANTS TEACHERS FIRED

Arbitrators, whose salaries depend on maintaining good standing with the education unions, all too often recommend suspensions or fines in cases where termination is clearly necessary to keep students safe.

Just more than a year ago, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called for a change in the law. The idea was to take final say in sexual-misconduct cases away from paid arbitrators and give it to those officials tasked with protecting our kids — the city schools chancellor and school district administrators elsewhere in the state. Under the proposed law, teachers accused of sexual misconduct would retain the right to due process and ability to appeal their terminations in court. And the vast majority of teacher-termination cases would not be affected at all.

The premise behind the proposed law is simple and straightforward: Due to the grave and lasting consequences these offenses can have on students, sexual-misconduct cases merit a higher level of scrutiny and an additional layer of protection for parents. The UFT, however, came out against the proposed legislation — and, under pressure from the UFT, legislators in Albany did nothing to pass the measure.

If the UFT’s intent was to send the message that it will defend the right of any teacher to remain in the classroom no matter what they have done, well, then, mission accomplished.

It is time for each mayoral candidate to take a position on legislation to put the city schools chancellor or school district officials, not paid arbitrators, in charge of these sensitive cases.

And Bill Thompson must now answer a simple question: Will he stand with the UFT on this issue, or fight to protect children in our public schools?

Campbell Brown is a former CNN anchor and head of the Parents Transparency Project, an education advocacy group.