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November 29, 2010

Two-year suspension without pay imposed on teacher found guilty of “immoral conduct”

Two-year suspension without pay imposed on teacher found guilty of “immoral conduct”
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education 14025

New York City School teacher Norman P. Kaminowitz was found guilty of charges that he had sexually abused students, having “engaged in a continuing pattern of making inappropriate remarks, and otherwise engaged in immoral conduct.”

Kaminowitz, among other things, was alleged to have sat next to a student and rubbed her leg with his “in a suggestive manner” and touched a student with his hand “at or near her genital area.”

Concluding that Kaminowitz’s conduct constituted “neglect of duty, incapacity to teach and immoral conduct,” the hearing panel unanimously recommended that he be suspended for two years without pay. The City Board of Education appealed, asking the Commissioner to substitute his judgment for that to the panel with respect to the penalty imposed and authorize it to dismiss Kaminowitz.

Kaminowitz also appealed, asking the Commissioner to overturn the panel’s determination on the grounds that the evidence at the hearing did not support such a finding. In the alternative, Kaminowitz asked the Commissioner to reduce the penalty imposed on the grounds that it was “disproportionate to the offense.”

The Commissioner said that Kaminowitz’s conduct “is disgraceful and cannot be condoned.” He declined, however, to change the penalty imposed by the panel “based on the record as a whole.”

Among the factors cited by the Commissioner in support of his determinations were the following:

(a) [T]he only “blemish” in Kaminowitz’s 25-year teaching career prior to these incidents “appears to be the warning given to him by his building principal ten years before” and no charges were filed at that time; and

(b) [T]here were no indications of any other warnings by his current supervisors, or any history of complaints in the record.

The Commissioner said that a two-year suspension without pay was proportionate to the offense and “sufficient to impress upon [Kaminowitz] that the behavior for which he was found guilty is completely unacceptable and must not be repeated.
NYPPL

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Text prepared by Harvey Randall except as otherwise noted. Randall, former Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service, also served as Director of Personnel for the State University System; as Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and as Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. He has an MPA from the Maxwell School, Syracuse University and a J.D. from Albany Law School.