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May 21, 2013

There is a constitutional right to be present during the testimony of the complaining child absent some compelling reason to bar the employee from the hearing while the child is testifying


There is a constitutional right to be present during the testimony of the complaining child absent some compelling reason to bar the employee from the hearing while the child is testifying
2013 NY Slip Op 03432, Appellate Division, First Department

A teacher appealed the Supreme Court’s denial of her petition to vacate the adverse disciplinary arbitrator’s award and its granting the employer’s motion to confirm the award.

The critical issue before the Appellate Division: was the teacher denied administrative due process when she was not permitted to be present during the testimony of the “complaining witness,” a student?

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court’s ruling “on the law” and remanded the matter to the hearing officer with instruction that the hearing officer take testimony from the child complaining witness in the presence of the teacher.

The Appellate Division, citing Matter of Daniel Aaron D., 49 NY2d 788, explained that the teacher's exclusion from the administrative hearing “during the testimony of the only eyewitness to her alleged hitting of a student — the student himself — violated her constitutional right to confront the witnesses against her.”

The court said that nothing in the record indicated that there was a “compelling competing interest” that warranted the teacher’s being excluded from that portion of the hearing and the record was silent as to the basis for the teacher’s exclusion.

Further, the Appellate Division noted that there was no finding that teacher's presence would cause trauma to the student or substantially interfere with his ability to testify.

With respect to another argument advanced by the teacher -- in addition to her constitutional right she had an absolute right to confront witnesses under Education Law §3020-a – the Appellate Division ruled that “she waived that argument by failing to object on the record to her exclusion from the hearing, but had she so objected the argument would have been rejected as the Appellate Division observed that “In any event, there is no such absolute right under §3020-a.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



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