Teacher Sues DOE Over Molestation Charges
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A Bronx gym teacher and coach accused of sexual misconduct announced Thursday he is turning the tables and suing the Department of Education.
Daniel Smith has been spending his second school year in one of the city's famed "rubber rooms" or reassignment centers for teachers under investigation of misconduct.
"It is outrageous. This is fundamental due process. It's an opportunity to be heard in a hearing," said Smith's attorney, Lenard Leeds.
Leeds claims the charges against Smith are false and were trumped up by administrators at Dodge High School in the Bronx who were upset at Smith for speaking to the Daily News about unequal funding for girl's sports teams.
Smith is accused of sexual molestation involving an alleged incident in one of his gym classes in March of 2007. A student claims Smith said he wanted her to sit on his lap. But Smith says he has witnesses confirming his version of the story.
"I have something that I normally say. I say take a lap and sit on your spot. Students are assigned floor spots. This young lady said, 'Oh, I have to sit on your lap?' and I said, 'No, you heard what I said. You'll take a lap and then sit on your spot,'" Smith said.
Smith is suing the DOE for an unspecified amount of money and for the right to get out of the rubber room and go back to work. Right now there are about 600 teachers in rubber rooms, being paid full salary while waiting for hearings which can go on for months once they begin.
Both the teachers union and the schools chancellor say they want to see the system fixed. With a new contract being negotiated, the issue may come up for discussion, although insiders say they doubt much will change.