PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – A social studies teacher who was found guilty of changing answers on two students’ state-required graduation exam can return to the classroom for the new school year, a hearing officer has ruled.
In January 2013, Peekskill High School teacher Allison Risoli altered the answer sheets of two students to help them pass their state standardized test, according to Hearing Officer Dennis Campagna.
Prosecutors said Risoli changed the answers several days after the test was administered by telling the data analyst that the sheets needed to be “reviewed.” The teacher then marked the incorrect answer with an “X” and filled in the correct answer, according to CBS New York.
Risoli was able to access the tests because she was the chair of the social studies department, and therefore responsible “for delivering completed tests to the Peekskill City School District Data Analyst,” CBS New York reports.
Risoli, a 22-year veteran teacher, was placed on paid administrative leave when the allegations of wrongdoing first surfaced in February 2013. She responded by suing the district for libel, slander and emotional distress, LoHud.com reports.
There doesn’t seem much basis for that lawsuit now that Campagna has found Risoli guilty of not only cheating on the exams, but also of making false statements and acting insubordinately.
For punishment, Risoli was fined $62,293.50 – half a year’s salary. She “still faces 10 misdemeanor criminal counts in Peekskill City Court,” LoHud.com reports.
The fact that Risoli will be allowed back in a classroom (if she chooses) is a testament to the extremely powerful job protections New York teachers enjoy thanks to their politically powerful teacher unions. In a sane world, Risoli would be barred from having anything to do with the teaching profession.
Peekskill City school board President Douglas Glickert said the ruling “validates the district’s course of action” and noted that Risoli “was guilty of compromising the integrity of her role as a teacher when she improperly changed answers on Regents exams.”
It remains to be seen if Risoli will be in the classroom when the district’s new school year begins Sept. 3.