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Several Sexual Harassment Cases In New York City Schools Closed Without Conclusion

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Despite closing probes on several sexual harassment cases, New York City Department of Education investigators failed to determine if charges in the school system were licit. In this image, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks to the press after visiting the Cayuga Center, which provides foster care and other services to immigrant children separated from their families in New York City, June 20, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Vaishnavi Vaidyanathan, International Business Times

Despite closing probes on several sexual harassment cases, New York City Department of Education investigators failed to determine if charges in the school system were licit, official data provided by the department shows.

According to the official data, the city found conclusive evidence for just 21 of the 338 cases that were completed between 2014 and 2017 and of the 21 cases, the accusations were proven true only for 7 cases while the remaining 14 were unsubstantiated.

Conclusions were not reached for the remaining 317 probes, which represent nearly 94% of the closed probes during the period and of the closed probes, 249 were ended because the accuser withdrew the charges.

[post_ads]Annie Seifullah, a former Robert Wagner High School Principal, who instituted legal proceedings against the city said, “Giving victims a platform to speak up and tell their stories only works if they feel protected from retaliation,” adding she felt most Education Department employees do not feel protected in this way.

“It’s shocking that people in power are still questioning claims made by those brave enough to speak up,” she said, the New York Daily News reported.

According to Douglas Cohen, a spokesperson of the department, all cases are taken seriously and strict protocols are followed to ensure they are investigated thoroughly.

“We have strict protocols in place to ensure that every allegation of sexual harassment is thoroughly investigated, and we’re hiring additional investigators to address allegations more quickly and ensure appropriate disciplinary action where there is wrongdoing,” Cohen said. “We address each case based on the evidence.”

The department started tracking these cases in April this year after Mayor Bill de Blasio published figures that showed 471 sexual harassment complaints were filed by Department of Education employees between 2013 and 2017.  “Far too long, survivors of sexual harassment had to suffer in silence. We’ve reviewed and overhauled our policies to send a loud and clear message of support to survivors,” he said in a statement along with the figures.

However, the department substantiated less than 2 percent of all harassment complaints which the mayor felt is a relatively low number due to a “hyper-complaint dynamic”.
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De Blasio walked back his remarks later by tweeting: “Every single person who has the courage to come forward with a sexual harassment complaint deserves to be believed.”

In April, the New York Times stated that nearly 500 employees of the department filed sexual harassment complaints in the last four years, and only seven of them were substantiated by the agency. The department reached settlements in 32 sexual harassment cases from 2014 through 2017, paying a total of $4.7 million.

New York City hall officials said they are finding it difficult to monitor sexual harassment probes as different agencies compiled information in different ways. They also said there is no consistent monitoring system.

While acknowledging the seriousness of the problem, the officials said the department would double the number of staff assigned to investigate these cases by raising it to 18 from 7.

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Several Sexual Harassment Cases In New York City Schools Closed Without Conclusion
Several Sexual Harassment Cases In New York City Schools Closed Without Conclusion
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