NJ Teachers Union Leaders Resign, NJEA to Face Lawmakers Over Videos
TRENTON — The state's largest teachers union will cooperate with lawmakers set on holding public hearings into the labor organization's conduct.
The hearings were requested by Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, after a conservative activist group Project Veritas released videos of union presidents in Hamilton (Mercer County) and Union City describing how they defend teachers accused of wrongdoing — sometimes by unscrupulous means.
The videos resulted in the union presidents being suspended from their teaching positions as their respective school districts conduct their own investigations.
The NJEA on Thursday acknowledged that David Perry from the Mercer County district and Kathleen Valencia from Union City resigned from their union positions last Thursday.
In the videos, Valencia can be seen and heard telling the undercover agent for Project Veritas that a teacher accused of having sex with a student will not be charged with a crime because there is no proof. Perry is seen telling an agent for Project Veritas that the union will "bend the truth" to help even "the worst people."
In both cases, the union presidents believed they were speaking to relatives of teachers who had harmed students and were afraid of potential consequences.
Sweeney last week said said there is "zero tolerance for this kind of egregious conduct."
"No one charged with educating students should be denigrating them. The stakes are too high to ignore – we’re talking about our children," Sweeney said.
After first criticizing Project Veritas' methods, the NJEA said last week that it is "preparing to conduct a review of local affiliate practices."
"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," the statement said. "NJEA welcomes the opportunity to discuss these important issues further with legislators in order to ensure that all public education advocates are working together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of New Jersey's students."
There was no word about when hearings would be held.