The generous protection, which was first reported on by the New York Post, has been caused by the city's "rubber room" policy. Under this policy, if a teacher is accused of wrongdoing, he or she is kept in limbo status, out of the classroom and sometimes in a holding room, until the investigation is concluded. According to the Post, Eller, is the city's longest serving rubber room teacher. The music teacher was suspended in 1999, a year after he began working full-time and students started complaining about his conduct.
But a hearing officer, who decides whether tenured teachers can be fired, ruled that the city couldn't fire him because he wasn't properly informed of his rights. The Department of Education, determining that Eller was not fit for the classroom, has kept him in a "rubber room."
During the Department of Education's investigation, Eller reportedly confessed to allegations from students that included the following:
- Telling a student that "age doesn't matter" after admitting that he had a "crush" on her. He also told her she was "well-developed" and that she would make a "good wife."
- Turning off the lights during class and then touching a student's shoulders.
- Complementing a student's "nice a**," after asking her to lift her shirt.
Eller's brother has come to his defense. In speaking to the Post, Ayton Eller, said that his brother is diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder, and that he has a "history of mental issues," but "he's stable now because of the medicine." He also says that his brother is a "genius" and a trained classical guitarrist who performs in local concerts. He says that he's never left the school system for other work because of his two children. (He's divorced from his wife.)
Regardless of their reasons, teachers in the New York school system who have been assigned to the "rubber room" have been known to stick it out until retirement, despite the allegations of misconduct that hang over them.
Of course, some New York city schoolteachers are more accepting than others. As was reported by AOL Jobs last year, technology teacher Francesco Portelos posted a live stream of his banishment to a "rubber room" after he butted heads with administrators at Intermediate School 49 on Staten Island. (He had accused officials of engaging in "financial misconduct.")
While posting the images of his time there, Portelos held up a sign that read, "I'd rather teach." And speaking to the camera, he noted, "I'm getting paid $75,000 to sit around." (As of two months ago, Portelos was reported to still be in the rubber room, according to the Vice website.)
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