What is The Rubber Room?
Simply put, "The Rubber Room" is a room where hundreds and hundreds of New York City schoolteachers presently sit, being paid full salary to do absolutely nothing.
But, like so many things, it's not quite so simple...
Each year in New York City hundreds of schoolteachers are suspended. Their teaching privileges are temporarily, but indefinitely, revoked.
Accused of a wide range and varying degrees of misconduct, these teachers are no longer allowed in the classroom. Instead, while awaiting a lengthy adjudication process, they are compelled to report of an off-campus location commonly refereed to as The Rubber Room.
Annual Costs in Excess of $25 Million
Teachers assigned to a Rubber Room can spend months and often years there. Though they continue to collect their full salaries, they are not asked or allowed to perform work of any kind, instead sitting idle day after day.
The annual cost of the New York City Department of Education's Rubber Room is estimated to be in excess of $25 million, with some estimates ranging as high as $40 million. In addition, there is a general consensus that this cost is rising steeply with each passing year.
There exists, at any given time, at least one Rubber Room in each of New York City's five boroughs. The rooms are often medium-sized, non-descript administrative spaces with chairs and sometimes tables. Because almost no one in the New York City public education system is willing to discuss the issue on record, it is difficult to obtain a figure regarding the total number of teachers housed in these rooms, but educated guesses usually place it at a population of approximately 400 to 500 occupants, a population that, according to most, is steadily and even dramatically increasing.
Psychological Impact and Taboo
Rubber Room occupants often report feelings of being deprived of their dignity and sense of self worth. Forced to languish in a state of silent, inactive limbo day after day, they describe being treated like prison inmates in the face of what they feel are baseless charges or complaints. They often recount an almost Kafkaesque set of procedures, whereby they are transferred to a Rubber Room without being told what they are accused of, who their accusers are, or even, in many instances, that they have been accused of anything at all.
Once assigned to a Rubber Room, teachers are often shunned by their peers and former school administrators. A general atmosphere of taboo will in many cases follow them for the remainder of their careers, long after they have returned to regular teaching and even, in many cases, after having been fully acquitted of their accusations.
The Rubber Room is an extremely controversial subject, with many involved in New York education regarding it as simply too dangerous a topic to discuss.
Some complain that the Rubber Room allows teachers guilty of atrocious and even criminal misconduct to remain on the public payroll, being paid a full salary to sit and do nothing. On the other side, there are those that claim the entire process, although initially created as an instrument to protect child safety, has now been expanded into a lethal weapon, used by principals and other administrators to remove teachers from their classrooms based on minor insubordination, personality conflicts, or even for budgetary reasons such as making way for a new replacement teacher who will be paid a far lesser salary.
Although opinions vary widely with respect to the Rubber Room, they do seem to share one common denominator: they are impassioned, sometimes inflammatory, and never positive. Put another way, you would find it extremely difficult to locate an individual, either working in the New York City public education system or not, who thinks the Rubber Room is a system that works even moderately well.
The Rubber Room, a Five Boroughs' documentary film, is an in-depth, unbiased exploration of the New York City Department of Education's teacher suspension process.
The Rubber Room asks the tough questions about "the room" itself, but also closely examines teaching in general and relates these questions to larger trends in both New York City and national education.
We encourage all individuals with direct experience or information regarding the New York City Department of Education's teacher suspension process to contact Five Boroughs Productions for this most important project.
Five Boroughs Productions, a New York City based production company, is comprised of a diverse group of artists and professionals with backgrounds in film, video, multimedia and marketing. The company is devoted to producing and distributing high-quality films about important issues affecting the lives of each and every one of us. With a low cost, high impact philosophy, the company is nimble, adaptive and beholden to no one and nothing except the integrity of its founders.
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Five Boroughs' current project, The Rubber Room, is an in-depth, unbiased exploration, via documentary film, of the New York City Department of Education's teacher suspension process, more commonly known as "The Rubber Room". Why is this an important project? We at Five Boroughs believe that our public education system is a direct reflection of who we are as a society. How we choose to implement that system dictates not only our future, but also tells us, in no uncertain terms, who we are today, right at this very moment. In fact, we believe this subject matter to be of such consequence that it simply speaks for itself. We encourage all individuals with direct experience or information regarding the above to contact Five Boroughs Productions.