A new Project Veritas video shows Yonkers, New York, teachers union officials advising fraud, violations of workplace rules and absurd excuses to protect a teacher who had physically hurt a student and taken an unauthorized vacation.
Throughout the video, the officials, who didn't know they were being filmed, appear unconcerned with whether the student was hurt and more focused on what needs to be done to keep the teacher's livelihood safe. They even suggest ways to make an excuse for the "teacher's" lengthy vacation in Mexico, like telling him to tell school officials that he had a family member kidnapped there.
"What would a teachers union president do if presented with a scenario where a teacher hit and possibly bloodied a student in an act of racial animus?" undercover journalist James O'Keefe asked. "And what if the teacher had then taken off for a two-week vacation in Mexico without telling the school?"
O'Keefe explained Project Veritas was tipped off that union officials would go to "extraordinary lengths" to protect their members.
A journalist with Project Veritas posed as a volunteer at an unnamed school in Yonkers, and she spoke with Paul Diamond, a senior official with the city's chapter of the United Federation of Teachers, about a made-up incident where she saw a teacher physically hurt a student.
"Well, if the child was attacked by a teacher, then they have recourse in the police department," Diamond said. "If that’s what happened. If a teacher is attacked by a child, then there’s a superintendent's hearing, at least depending on the age of the child. So if somebody was harmed, there was a way for the harmed person to react."
He added, laughing, that the child's mother would be missing out on a "financial boon" if she didn't take the school to court over the abuse. When the woman posing as a volunteer said the abused child might come forward, Diamond advised for the teacher to simply call the union immediately if that happened.
"And the teacher should not participate in any interview or any investigation," he said. "And should say the phrase, "I feel this can become disciplinary. I want someone from the union office."
"And my friend shouldn’t say anything if the kid never says anything?" the journalist asked.
"I don’t see what the advantage of talking about this would be," Diamond said. "Is there any good that can come from that?"
"I mean not for my friend, I don’t think so," the journalist said.
"Yeah, I don’t think so," Diamond said.
Later, O'Keefe came to Diamond, posing as the teacher in question who hit the student. Diamond advised that they talk "in theory" rather than get into specifics.
From there, O'Keefe laid out hypotheticals like the assault in question happened nearly a month ago and a racial epithet was used.
Diamond calmly explained that if a nurse didn't report a possible case of child abuse at the time, she could be fired, making it unlikely that she would come forward now. He also guessed O'Keefe might have to get "kumbaya training" if an arbitrator found he'd used racially charged language in addition to the physical abuse.
In addition, since O'Keefe claimed to be a tenured teacher, Diamond said it was unlikely he would lose his career over one bit of bad judgment.
When union president Patricia Puleo found out he was tenured, she said, "God bless."
O'Keefe explained in the video he decided to see how far the officials would go to protect him by claiming he went to Mexico for two weeks after the assault.
Since teachers aren't allowed to be away from school for more than three consecutive days without just medical cause, Puleo advised he write a letter of explanation to the school board that there was a "horrific event" for his family that required his attention. O'Keefe even said he didn't take care to provide a substitute teacher, but the official suggested he throw the union under the bus and maintain his false story that his situation was so traumatic that "it consumed your entire being."
"When confronted with it, you are falling on your sword and just admitting that there was … such a mind-blowing, grave, numbing that it consumed your entire being, and if they need to know what it is, look up family medical leave, we probably can give you a copy here," Puleo said. "And, you know, you had reached out to the union office as if what to do, but, ‘Goddamn those people, they didn’t call me back. I didn’t know what to do, I was dealing with this situation.'"
Puleo and Diamond then imagined a conversation where they pretended they had a new phone system and were too busy to deal with O'Keefe's case. As for his excuse for being in Mexico, Puleo suggested a scenario where O'Keefe tell officials that drug dealers had kidnapped his family members and he had to get them out of trouble.
She concluded her advice by telling him to not "fucking tell anybody anything."