by Terrence T. McDonald
in The Jersey Journal on Friday, May 4, 2018
Two education advocacy groups are calling for an investigation by state lawmakers following the release this week of two videos that appear to show New Jersey teachers unions presidents explaining how they protect teachers who commit criminal acts.
The directors of JerseyCAN and Better Education for Kids say in a letter sent Friday to state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Newark and chairwoman of the Senate Education committee, that the videos raise questions about how easy it is to manipulate the teacher disciplinary system. The groups say they want lawmakers to conduct hearings into the statements attributed to the union presidents in the videos.
“These videos highlight that there may be weaknesses in teacher disciplinary procedures that unethical insiders can exploit to protect teachers accused of wrongdoing,” the letter says.
The videos were both products of Project Veritas, a conservative group that produces undercover reports aimed at exposing bad behavior by groups associated with liberals. The teachers identified in them, Union City Education Association President Kathleen Valencia and Hamilton Township Education Association President David R. Perry, were both suspended following their release.
Valencia and Perry have not made public comments about the videos, which were recorded by women identified as journalists for Project Veritas. The videos are similar: the women say they are relatives of teachers who did bad things and they want to know what will happen to them. The people identified as Valencia and Perry say they will protect the teachers, with Perry saying, “I’m here to defend even the worst people.”
The New Jersey Education Association on Tuesday criticized Project Vertias for “using dishonest and illegal tactics” and said there should be no coverage of its videos. On Friday the union said in a statement that it is launching a probe of its affiliate members.
“To ensure that appropriate practices are followed, we are commissioning an independent review of the practices of our local affiliates and staff. The purpose of that review is to ensure that every staff member and local affiliate leader understands and clearly communicates the responsibility of all school employees to report any suspected abuse of children,” the union said in its release.
JerseyCAN and Better Education for Kids often advocate for education reforms opposed by teachers unions.
In the Union City video, Valencia references a teacher who she says had sex with a student but was not charged criminally because the student had no proof.
Asked to comment, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a statement that her office is working with Union City police to “establish the veracity of any allegations of sexual misconduct referenced in the video in order to determine if there was any failure in reporting.”