Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

The Rubber Room

Photo Credit: Can Pac Swire

The New York City public school system is huge. More than a million students, all being taught by 75,000 teachers.

Except…a few hundred of those teachers…are being paid NOT to teach.

These are teachers who are accused of misconduct. Often without warning, they’re removed from their classrooms and sent to a Department of Education reassignment center. Teachers call it: “The Rubber Room.”

The truth is, some of these teachers haven’t done anything wrong. And sometimes they don’t even know why they’ve ended up in the Rubber Room. But the worst part is that teachers can remain in the Rubber Room for years while their cases slowly creep through the system. Not guilty, not innocent… just doing time.

In 2010, the NYC Department of Education made an agreement with the Teachers Union to close the Rubber Room. Turns out, that hasn’t been so easy.

Special thanks to our friends at This American Life, where part of this podcast originally aired.

Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. This month, to celebrate the launch of Ear Hustle, all the Radiotopia shows are doing something special. We’re bringing you new episodes inspired by the theme: “Doing Time.” Hear them all – and subscribe to Ear Hustle – at radiotopia.fm.

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