Teachers fighting the city Department of Education's use of so-called rubber rooms have been dealt a setback by a state judge, who recently threw out a lawsuit charging mistreatment.
Rubber rooms hold teachers who are accused of misconduct ranging from criminal charges to incompetent teaching but who cannot simply be fired; because the teachers have tenure, the department must give them a fair hearing before firing them.
Professional arbitrators decide the cases, hearing arguments on behalf of the teacher and arguments by a team of Department of Education lawyers on behalf of the accusing principal.
About 700 teachers are currently in rubber rooms, where they remain sometimes for more than a year waiting to hear a decision, not teaching but receiving pay.
The lawsuit charged that the arbitrators were biased against teachers in rubber rooms because they are paid for by the city.
In his ruling, state Judge Kibbie Payne said there was no evidence that the arbitrators were biased against the teachers.
A Department of Education spokeswoman, Melody Meyer, said the arbitrators are hired jointly by the teachers union and the city and are not biased.
A math teacher who has been in a rubber room for a year, Florian Lewenstein, called the judge's decision "dispiriting."
"There are many teachers who are being killed off by this," he said.
The teachers union had threatened possible legal action over the rubber rooms, but earlier this summer the union reached a deal with the city to speed up rubber room cases by hiring eight more arbitrators.