A middle school teacher in Woodbridge was suspended (without pay!) for the last 20 months over a series of sexual harassment complaints made by students and at least one fellow teacher. The teacher, James Lang, was tenured and under a union contract that meant the school's decision to terminate him could be reviewed by a state judge. The administrative judge ruled last week that Lang should be fired, that he was "not fit to lead in an educational institution," that he "violated all standards of decency," and that the middle school teacher's "grotesque and sexual behavior" helped create "a sexually demeaning environment." Lang was accused of calling his female students hos, whores, and prostitutes, and making sexual advances toward them as well as at least one female teacher.
Amazingly, the judge's decision is still not final. Lang's attorney, who denies the charges, says he is planning to appeal the decision; it can be overturned by the state education commissioner. These are the benefits of tenure, a concept originally formulated to protect college-level educators from reprisals for teaching unpopular subjects or opinions, not to protect perverts who manage to land jobs at middle schools. How did Lang get to tenure in the first place? The accusations date back to 2003, the year Lang started with the Woodbridge Public Schools, but he received "consistently satisfactory" performance evaluations, according to MyCentralJersey.com, which also reports he worked at three schools in the district. Among the accusations against Lang related to his interaction with middle school students were:
• Calling a student "Jo-Jo the Ho-Ho" and a "dirty ho," slang terms for a prostitute.
• Calling a student a whore and suggesting that she wear less clothing on dress-down day.
• Telling a female student who bent over to pick up a paper that he would "tap that."
• Asking students during class whether they would be afraid if his "snake were in their bed."
• Saying that a female student's "mouth was fast and on the weekends it runs extra fast."
• Telling his class that he used to watch students shower at a former job at a community center.
Despite public sector unions insisting their employees have the right to "due process" in employment, not being terminated immediately for these kinds of accusations, at the discretion of administration, is not a right, nor a privilege that ought to be extended to them.