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Critics: Tenure Has Made Removing Teachers A 'Burdensome' Process

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City teachers have been accused of everything from incompetence to patronizing prostitutes. But when the city has tried to fire them it has heard officers say "no" 60 percent of the time.

Critics blame it on the teacher tenure trap, and are demanding change, CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported Wednesday.

At Brooklyn's Westinghouse High School a dean was caught on video manhandling a student. The city moved to fire Stephen Hudson for conduct unbecoming his profession.

Because he had tenure the case went to a union-approved hearing officer, who called Hudson's actions "unacceptable" and "serious misconduct."

Yet Hudson was not fired. The sides instead agreed to a $10,000 fine and anger management training.

Records show hearing officer Joshua Javits issued three other rulings in 2013. One involved a city teacher accused of encouraging students to fight, another involved a teacher accused of patronizing a prostitute and another accused of harassing a female colleague.

In each case, Javits rejected the city's attempt to fire the educator.

"It is still a burdensome process to get rid of a bad teacher, particularly once they have tenure," said education expert Charles Sahm of the Manhattan Institute.

Sahm said it's costly and time consuming. By one measure, the average tenured teacher termination effort takes 830 days and costs $313,000.

"There's probably too much protections for bad teachers, for ineffective teachers," Sahm said.

Now there's an effort to change the tenure system.

Emboldened by a California case overturning tenure on the grounds that it sticks too many poor and minority children with bad teachers, New York City parents are preparing to sue.

"The public would absolutely understand teachers need due process,' U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Aiello.

Duncan said he also understands frustrations with burdensome dismissal proceedings for tenured teachers.

"It shouldn't take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove a teacher where it's simply by any measure not working for children in the classroom," Duncan said.

In recent years the city moved to reform tenure. Teachers are now eligible after three years, instead of two, and instead of being almost automatic, only about 55 percent of eligible teachers get tenure on the first try.

However, critics say efforts to reform the teacher dismissal system have fallen short.

As for the types of offenses that have gotten a teacher fired, 14 were fired for incompetence in 2013, meaning multiple years of "unsatisfactory" ratings, Aiello reported.

Teachers were also terminated for inappropriate sexual actions with students or colleagues.

One was fired for filing false complaints against other teachers.

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