Project Veritas, a conservative political organization focused on undercover “sting” operations, released a series of videos Tuesday in which employees ask Ohio teachers union leaders for help dealing with fictitious teacher-student incidents.
One of the videos shows a crying woman asking Dayton teachers union President David Romick how to handle a situation between a student and her fiancé, who she falsely says is a Dayton Public Schools teacher.
Project Veritas said the Ohio videos are part of a nationwide investigation into teachers unions. The group says unions prioritize teachers’ jobs above student safety by advising teachers not to report abuse allegations.
The Dayton video, which shows selected excerpts of the woman’s interaction with Romick, begins with the woman saying a child fell down and hit his head on a chair two weeks earlier, causing him to bleed. The video does not show the woman’s explanation of how the student fell, or whether the teacher caused him to fall.
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Romick called Project Veritas’ press release and video “grossly misrepresentative of what was said (that day).”
“She indicated that her made-up fiancé was involved in some kind of an assault with a made-up student in the Dayton Public Schools, and was defending himself,” Romick said.
Nick Evangelista, a spokesman for Project Veritas contacted Tuesday said the incident described to Romick involved a teacher shoving a student.
“A kid acting up and a teacher shoving them to the ground is not an appropriate response,” he said.
Evangelista denied his organization mischaracterized Romick’s comments.
In the Project Veritas video, Romick says it’s unlikely anything will come of the fictitious incident, because nothing has come across his desk in the two weeks since the woman claims the fictitious incident happened.
Romick says if a complaint is filed, the teacher will have “the full protection of the union behind him,” adding that there could be a suspension or letter of reprimand, but, “in my eight years in this position, I’ve never had somebody terminated for a situation like you’re describing.”
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In the video, Romick says he has dealt with “cases of physical contact” between teachers and students about 10 times a year in his eight years, noting his union has more than 1,000 members.
“There may be some discipline,” he says. “There may be a short-term suspension or a letter of reprimand…something along those lines, but I’ve never had a termination.”
Romick said Tuesday that his response was based on other cases of physical contact between teachers and students, which have ranged from incidental contact, to barring student from leaving a room, to breaking up fights, but not violence against a student.
Asked about Project Veritas’ claim that teachers unions are too focused on the interests of teachers at the expense of the well-being of students, Romick immediately pointed to his group’s months-long 2017 push for a new contract.
“The Dayton Education Association is 100 percent focused on what is right for students,” Romick said. “All the way from January to August last year, our message was that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. And clearly, DEA remains focused on those student learning conditions.”
Project Veritas has targeted teachers unions across the country with undercover videos for months. In a failed “sting” earlier this month, a woman went into a school in Warren, Ohio, identifying herself as a teacher and reporting physical contact between a teacher and student. But the union rep called police after the woman fled when the official asked her for ID.
Project Veritas, a tax-exempt charity led by conservative activist James O’Keefe, has a controversial history. O’Keefe has faced accusation and lawsuits for using hidden cameras and false pretenses to interview people, then selectively editing video to change their content.
“We edit our videos — like all journalists edit — for brevity, and to protect our methods and sources, but we do not take people out of context,” Evangelista said Tuesday.
Their videos have also spurred action. A teacher’s union president in New Jersey was suspended and an investigation launched after a similar video there showed him counseling someone in how to downplay the beating of a student.
The videos released Tuesday also included undercover interviews with union officials in Akron and Cleveland Heights, discussing fictitious scenarios. Evangelista referenced comments from the former president of the Akron Education Association that were caught on camera in their video.
“We challenge them to tell us in what instance it is acceptable to say, ‘I’ve had teachers in physical altercations with kids, sexual altercations with kids, verbal altercations with kids, violating the professional standards rules and other ways that don’t involve kids and it’s, (expletive) happens. You know?’”