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Child Abuse Allegations against Paraprofessionals

PLEASE READ AND REREAD THIS LENGTHY LETTER AND DISCUSS WITH PARAPROFESSIONALS AND PER DIEM AIDES

        Subject:     Child Abuse Allegations

Dear Newark Teacher’s Union Paraprofessional and Per Diem Aide:

        Newark Teachers Union President, John Abeigon, has requested that I send you a personal communication in respect to the enumerable child abuse allegations which are being brought on a daily basis by parents, students and administrators against Newark Teacher Union paraprofessionals and per diem aides. I’m personally requesting, because I handle all allegations of child abuse against paraprofessionals and per diem aides, that you take the time to discuss this very important letter amongst yourselves. You will recall, at the beginning of the school year I provided a seminar for paraprofessionals and per diem aides whereby I emphasized the importance of avoiding allegations of conduct unbecoming and child abuse referencing the students under your supervision. During the past month, parents, students and administrators have filed complaints with DYFS against school staff at an alarming rate. Many of the allegations are untrue but it’s important that I remind you that the NEWARK DISTRICT is taking allegations very serious in that lawsuits against you and the District oftentimes arise therefrom.

        You are a significant and important element of success in our schools and the Newark Teachers Union will continue to protect staff against child abuse allegations but we want you to be exceptionally careful in the manner in which you supervise and direct your students. We want each and every one of you to reach retirement and the benefits you so well deserve and that is why I’m writing you. Too often your touching students is misunderstood and viewed as being too aggressive. In speaking to students stay 100% professional. Bad and insulting language is to be avoided. We are not our student’s parents but guardians. We can’t say or do what parents might say or do! Students and parents are looking for every opportunity to place blame on you. While you must do what is reasonably necessary to protect children who are fighting, make sure you send someone for security and make sure your hands never go near a student’s head or neck and do not make any movement which can be interpreted as slapping, hitting or pushing a student.

        As warm weather comes, schools become uncomfortable and often times children irritable. I know the difficult task you have but in order that you may keep your job, reach retirement, and have health benefits, it is necessary that you deeply think before you enter the territory of a misbehaving student and are viewed as improperly touching a student. Students want you to enter into their territory when they are bad so they can make up a story in respect to what they alleged you have done and their classmates will support them and unfortunately, the District also! Remember, school hallways have cameras which record any type of misbehavior which occurs therein. Corridor cameras and what is printed on the tapes have cleared staff of allegations of misconduct and at the same time, have been the basis of abuse allegations against school staff.

        The District is not hesitating to terminate the services of per diem aides and at the same time bring Civil Service discipline charges against permanent paraprofessionals. In discussing this subject amongst yourselves, including per diem aides, we should be able to significantly reduce the many unfounded child abuse allegations which have become systemic not only in Newark but in all urban school districts. Make copies of this letter and give to per diem aides.

        Keep ledger books in respect to known discipline students and discuss them with your teachers. Report, in writing, serious incidents to your teacher and administration. Work in close collaboration with your immediate supervisor and your Newark Teachers Union building representative or the Newark Teachers Union 973-643-8430 if a building representative is not available. It’s understandable that with preschool, lower grades, autistic and special ed students, there are times that you may have to assist them by touching them and directing them. Make sure when you do so, another adult witnesses such. You don’t want anything misinterpreted whereby you place your job, salary, benefits and retirement in jeopardy. Make sure you are where you are suppose to be and make constant headcounts of students you supervise. Don’t leave students alone.

        Remember, there are moments when you must intervene to protect students from being injured either physically or verbally. You can’t stand by and do nothing. That’s lack of supervision and child neglect. Intervene in a professional and calm manner. Never escalate a bad situation by losing your calmness whereby you can be blamed for inciting an incident. Don’t let a taunting student permit you to become aggravated where they can make up a lie about you. Oftentimes, they will bait you so they can then trap you in a lie. This is happening almost daily in the District to our staff. I’m available to meet with your paraprofessional staff. The Newark Teachers Union wants you to succeed, retain salary and benefits and reap the benefits of retirement after your many good years of dedicated service to Newark students and teachers!

                                                                      Very truly yours,

                                                                      EUGENE G. LISS

                                                                      General Counsel to the Newark

                                                                      Teachers Union