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Tweed Courthouse, Department of Education headquarters

Tweed Courthouse, Department of Education headquarters

Complaints are up, but investigations plummeted at agency responsible for investigating education employees

Significantly more complaints of corruption, harassment, and other wrongdoing were logged at the city’s education department last year, but fewer inquiries were opened by an agency responsible for investigating them.

In 2018, 6,813 complaints were received by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District (SCI) — a roughly 9 percent increase over the previous year, according to statistics released Friday afternoon. But the agency opened just 502 cases, a 32 percent decline compared with 2017.

The agency said the statistics are an “anomaly” caused by political turmoil at the agency. Mark Peters, head of the city’s Department of Investigation, staged a takeover of SCI last year in an apparent attempt to give it more investigative resources and fired its leader, who resisted the merger. The mayor then fired Peters in November, after an independent report found that he had abused his power.

“Part of the 2018 agenda (under DOI) was to investigate fewer individual matters,” Regina Gluzmanova, an SCI spokeswoman, wrote in an email. “For example, we opened significantly fewer Pre-K cases and referred more disciplinary-type cases” to other agencies, including the Office of Special Investigations, a unit that conducts internal investigations.

Gluzmanova declined to say how many of the 502 cases opened in 2018 were deemed to be credible, saying that information would require an open records request. As in previous years, the details related to the vast majority of cases were not disclosed.

SCI is responsible for conducting investigations that range from embezzlement and legal violations, to allegations of sexual misconduct. In 2018, 170 of the cases the office investigated involved “inappropriate contact” or “sexual misconduct” by education department personnel. Twenty-three instances of “secually inappropriate conduct” were substantiated.

The report also notes that SCI “substantiated investigations against 11 subjects that involved Pre-K students ranging from inappropriate contact to employees’ failure to supervise students.”

A spokesman for the city education department said in response to the statistics, “The safety and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority. We take any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously, and there are strict protocols in place to ensure complaints are reported, investigated, and addressed.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said last year that there is a “hyper-complaint dynamic” of frivolous complaints at the education department, specifically when it comes to harassment, a claim that sparked backlash and which he tried to walk back.

You can read the full SCI report here: