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Citing array of experiences, teachers argue tenure remains vital

Two teachers say their experiences facing harassment after engaging in union activity are the surest sign that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is wrong about the need for tenure.

On Friday, Bloomberg said during his weekly radio appearance that tenure is a vestige of an earlier time, the McCarthy Era, when teachers and others were persecuted for their political views. In the Community section today, Peter Lamphere and Rachel Montagano argue that teachers can still face unofficial sanctions for their politics or identities, making tenure just as vital now as it was in the 1950s.

In February, Lamphere wrote in the Community section about his experience receiving unsatisfactory reviews for the first time after lobbying against an administrator at the Bronx High School for Science. Montagano is currently embroiled in a battle of her own to keep her job at MS 216 in Queens, where she faces incompetence charges leveled for the first time after she stepped up her union leadership.

Lamphere and Montagano write:

As two New York City teachers who have both been targeted with unsatisfactory ratings because of our union activity, we know from firsthand experience that tenure is one of the few protections for whistleblowers and teacher advocates. … We join a long list of educators who have been targeted because of their union activity or for aspects of their identities.

After recapping some of the most prominent reports of retaliation against teachers, they write:

The stories detailed here are only a few cases culled from recent local headlines — a small selection of incidents that the mayor should already be familiar with before he proclaims that tenure is useless. And those situations that receive public attention are a subset of what must be countless stories where school workers have been harassed because of their willingness to advocate or, perhaps more shamefully, because of who they love, what God they worship, or the color of their skin.

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