Two New Jersey teacher's union presidents have been suspended following them saying in undercover videos how they would protect teachers who had assaulted students, mocking the area's public school students and referring to an actual teacher who had sex with a student but was not charged criminally.
The union leaders, Hamilton Township Education Association President David Perry and Union City Education Association President Kathleen Valencia, made the remarks on videos produced by "Project Veritas," the undercover journalism project of conservative activist James O'Keefe.
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The New Jersey Education Association released a statement, which also criticized "Project Veritas," announcing a review of its practices in the wake of the videos.
"To ensure that appropriate practices are followed, we are commissioning an independent review of the practices of our local affiliates and staff," the NJEA said. "The purpose of that review is to ensure that every staff member and local affiliate leader understands and clearly communicates the responsibility of all school employees to report any suspected abuse of children. Based on that review, NJEA will undertake appropriate training to ensure that takes place in every local and in every instance. There is no place for any ambiguity about the responsibility of every adult, in every position within our public schools, to protect the wellbeing of all students."
Perry made remarks about his efforts to "defend even the worst people" in a conversation with a "Project Veritas" journalist, who was posing as the sister-in-law of a teacher who had beat a student. Perry didn't know the story was a fabrication and no such teacher existed.
In the video, the man identified as Perry says the teacher should come to him and tell him "the truth" about what happened. Later, he says he could change the date of any records he keeps, making it appear it was reported the day after it happened, and that he would downplay the incident.
"I need to know the truth, so that we can bend the truth," he says in the video. "If nobody brings it up from (the) school, I don't say boo.
"I'm here to defend even the worst people," he later says on camera.
Perry also spoke in the video about wanting to ease the mind of the teacher and also said the teacher shouldn't tell anyone about the incident.
"I would never hurt a union member," he said, going on to say he would even do his best to protect a union teacher from an accusation of sexual misconduct because it was his job.
In a separate video, Valencia referred her "Project Veritas" interviewer—pretending to be the sister of a Union City middle school teacher—to the file of a teacher who had sex with a teenage female student and didn't go to jail. The file, she said, was about whether the teacher would get to keep his pension.
The "sister" says in the video her brother—who doesn't exist—pushed and injured a disrespectful student and he fears losing his job, but Valencia says "nothing happened" if there's "no video."
"Did the kid's parent come in? No? Nothing happened," Valencia says. "There's no video? Nothing happened."
She also suggested if the student told the principal about being pushed and hurt, the teacher could say the kid "tripped and fell." She added she didn't want to know who the teacher was, and she suggested the teacher find a way to give the student a passing grade to get him out of his classroom.
Valencia, whose LinkedIn page says she works at Jose Marti Freshman Academy, goes on to trash some of the children in the 14,000-student district.
"I know dirt bags. I have taught the dirt bags. They have a whole dirt bag class at the high school. I've taught the dirt bag class, OK?" Valencia says in the video. "It's the biggest f***ing pieces of s*** I have worked with."
The woman from Project Veritas expresses fear that her brother will be criminally charged and asks Valencia for assurance that he won't be.
"People have done worse things than him and, like, been fine?" the woman says.
In response, Valencia points to a file on her desk.
"This file right here is from a teacher who had sex with a student, OK? You're not going to jail," Valencia says. "This file is about whether or not the teacher gets to keep his pension. Sex with a teenage girl. Is he going to jail? No. How come? Because the child's not pressing charges."
"They have no proof there was sex," Valencia added.