A School Kept This 4th Grade Teacher In ‘Solitary Confinement’ For Two Years, And She Still Doesn’t Know Why

It’s been nearly two years since fourth grade teacher Carin Mehler was removed from the classroom during a state exam, but she she still doesn’t know what she’s accused of doing wrong.

“I don’t know what I did wrong,” Osborn School teacher Mehler said in her first public statement since she and three other teachers were reassigned in May 2013. “They never questioned me, never asked me to explain anything. And I have no way of defending myself.”

The district simply made an allegation of “improper coaching,” reassigned her, and never clarified the allegation with a formal charge; the absence of which prevents the tenured teacher from having the state-required administrative hearing to determine her future.

For over a year, she was ordered to sit in a room by herself stacking books, in what the Rye Teachers Union called “solitary confinement.” This year she’s been tasked with writing lesson plans from home, for children she is not allowed to teach.

“They don’t even acknowledge my emails,” she said.

In New York City, teachers must be formally charged within 60 days of being reassigned for misconduct. For the rest of the state, districts have three years to bring charges – and time is running out.

While this goes on, Mehler is being paid $150,000 to $200,000 in salary and benefits. Furthermore, in the 2013-14 school year, the board hired four “leave replacement” teachers at a total of $272,834, to fill the spots of the four reassigned teachers.

The district continues to claim it has evidence against the teacher, writing in response to a federal lawsuit last year:

“Mehler reviewed the students’ answers and suggested to students that they may want to change their answers, told students to add more detail to their answers and to check spelling, capitals and punctuations, told students to make their essays longer and explain things better, told students they did not need a protractor for questions and told students they did not need to measure to answer certain questions,”

If this is the case, one would expect charges to have been filed and the case pursued to conclusion. Yet, Rye district spokeswoman Sarah Derman said Thursday she didn’t know when charges might be filed.

For her part, Mehler denies the allegation.

“I have always followed the testing protocol strictly,” she said, adding her incredulity that the district’s case relies on testimony of 9-year-olds interviewed days after the alleged incident, particularly when they had undertaken a whole range of practice tests ahead of the state exam.

Indeed, President of the Rye Teachers Union Jamie Zung revealed last year that Superintendent Frank Alvarez tried to persuade parents to let their children be interviewed almost a year after the alleged incident.

But she insists she won’t back down, and remains determined to face down the school district and get back to her classroom.

“I am not paying a dime for something I didn’t do,” she says.

A teacher is not teaching, public money is being wasted, and the school district is showing zero signs of expediting the case to its much-needed conclusion. Unacceptable.

Featured Image: Joe Larese/The Journal News