Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Chicago Public School Teacher and Political expediency

the Ida Berger story


kenneth ditkowsky

8:44 PM (9 hours ago)
Ida Berger was a fantastic character.   Her case is one that I cannot forget, to wit:

The Chicago Public School Teacher and Political expediency.
Contrary to the politically correct dogma of the Chicago Public Schools, teaching children is only a priority to sundry teachers and parents who are socially mobile.    To too many parents, the function of the school system to baby=sit their children so that they can exercise their individual freedoms.     Children are a necessary evil.      However, necessary evils should not interfere with fun.     Thus, there are schools within the system where teaching is much more than a challenge.    This situation attracts many dedicated people to teaching.   One common trait that each of these people have is the annoying desire to ‘make a difference.’    
One of these do-gooders was Ida Berger.    Ida, was successful in her own right and when her friend, the former President of the Senate Michael Mansfield became ambassador to Japan, she donned her best teach profile and offered herself to the Chicago Public Schools.    Ms. Berger was a seasoned veteran of not only teaching, but of dealing with the Political elite.    However, she never met people like she encountered in the Chicago System.    For instance, she knew how important it was to obtain tenure – it kept politics out and gave you protection.    Ida was assigned – not appointed- to a school.   Being new to the system she was assigned a fourth grade class in a transition school.    By transition I mean a school in a neighborhood that was unstable but could tip either way.   
Fourth grade is the time when children start to feel early puberty and usually graduate from being babies to “children.”     It also seems to correspond to their parents ‘change of life’ period in too many cases.     Nevertheless, Ida loved the children and they adored her.    For x number of hours, a day they were hers and she lovingly taught them whatever subjects was to be learned.     Half a decade passed without incident, and then one day an irate lady from the neighborhood burst into Ida’s class room and seized a child.    The child was terrified, and Ida jumped in to defend her charge.    During the scuffle Ida banged a knee and got a bruise on it; however, the attacker was soundly routed.     Ida, wary that the attacker might return, send one of the children to the office to alert the principal and to call the police.    The principal sent back a note to Ida that informed Ida that she (Ida) was delusional and she should forget the whole thing.
Teachers stand in Loco Parentis with their students and to most teachers this is a serious status and obligation.    However, to the Chicago Public School System, like the Political system, duty to the public has little or no meaning.    Schools have teachers, and the rule of thumb applies – every person employed by the system is worth at least 4 votes and if well paid as much as 25 votes.    Thus, educating the masses is not a high priority.   The child attacker was a political activist in the neighborhood and therefore to the CPS system much more important than a mere teacher and a mere student.    Unfortunately, Ida had a contrary opinion and after school limped to the home of the child who had been assaulted and confronted her parents.    Ida talked the parents into filing a police complaint and to actually appear in court to address the complaint.   
The Principal and the Administration were outraged!     Ida was a deviant and trouble maker!    She had to be gotten rid of lest she infect the faculty with the idea that the children were more than numbers and we in school to get an education.    Ida was sent for a mental examination to one of the school doctors!     
Some people who feel strongly about honor, honesty, integrity, and responsibility have ‘street sense’ and know instinctively know how to face up to the National Socialists soldier who gravitate to the school system.    Ida hired a lawyer, and showed at the sanity examination with him.     In addition, fortuitously, Ida’s cousin, Senator Tunney (D. Cal) just happened to take a chance that Ida was at this particular doctor’s office and just happened to need to urgently to talk to her.    The doctor found her witty and charming.
Once again there was outrage.     I receive one of those ‘can you do me a favor calls’ and I agreed to represent Ida from that point on.      Ida and I met for the first time in my office.   She was not what I expected.     The sophisticated lady had been harassed to point of distraction.    When she went with the parent to the hearing as to the assault of the child, not only had the union refused to assist her, but the Board send an attorney to represent the attacker.   Everyone from the States Attorney to the judge treated her as if she was the bad guy.    At school the principal was nit picking her death, and her colleagues shunned her.       No indignity was too small to foist on Ms. Berger.
Fortuitously, at the time I was representing a group of ladies who called themselves Citizen Schools.  They were part of the League of Women Voters.     As was usual the Union and the School System were engaged in parochial bickering and the School Superintendent vowed to keep the schools open if a strike occurred.   She was going to recruit people from the neighborhood to man the classes.   My clients were livid!    People from the neighbor mean unvetted volunteers who might be child molesters, perverts, various and sundry criminals etc.    Giving a child molester 40 children to deal with in private for 40 minutes or more seemed to my ladies as not meeting the parens patrie criteria.    We went to Court.   The Chicago Board of Education hired the Judge’s wife as a paid consultant!
On the morning of the hearing one of the ladies discovered the ‘bribe’ to the judge and as I walked to the bench she made a point of intercepting me and imparting the information.    I introduced myself to the Judge, and informed him that I was seeking a Temporary Restraining Order and handed him my verified Petition.    I then congratulated him on his wife’s new employment.    Have you ever seen a man with dark skin turn white!     His reaction was – “you know!”     We then went into chambers to discuss the matter.    The Board’s attorney assured both me and Judge that the Superintendent would close the schools in the event of a strike and she would not hire anyone new to man the schools.    The case was continued generally with leave for me to renew my motion by one-hour prior notice.    I consulted with my clients and then left the courtroom arm and arm with the Board’s attorney.
I then approached him on the subject of Ida Berger.    I informed him of her pedigreed and that I would like to be a hero.     We agreed that she would be reassigned to a Northwest Side School administered by a principal who was less procrustean and more reasonable.    The next day Ida was assigned to a school governed by Mary Jane O’Shea.    O’Shea greeted Berger at the door with the words: “don’t expect to treat me like you did Ms. *****”      Berger’s classroom was on the 4th floor of the building and she was no longer teaching 4th grade.    Her students were older and each had a history of problems.    When the new assignment was relayed to me I called my opponent and demanded an explanation.     He was visibly upset and told me right out that he had been double crossed.    Later on in the day he had series medical emergency and his law practice ended.
Mrs. Ditkowsky did not raise any stupid children.    I knew problems were going to occur and I called in the cavalry.     Norm Deletzke and the traffic manager for Illinois Bell rigged up a telephone for Ida that was self-contained and independent of the school system.     My cousin, an executive with the Chicago police notified the local police station that I expected some trouble at the school and would appreciate their providing some special attention.
Trying to teach these hoodlums was a chore when a teacher had the co-operation of the administration; however, when Mary Jane O’Shea encouraged disorder – the result was predictable.      A group of young boys pulled a young girl into the cloak room and proceeded to tear at her clothes.   Ida tried to discourage the activity, and when she saw they she was going to be successful she called the police.   A police car arrived and the boys were hauled off.    Ms. O’Shea was hysterical telling the police that they had no authority and they were trespassing.    The officer ignored her, and then turned to her and said if she said one more word she would be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.     Things after that quieted down for a short period.
Ms. Berger’s authority was short lived.   She looked up and saw a desk on fire!    It seems another hoodlum had poured lighter fluid on his desk and set it afire!     The Fire Department and the Police were called.    The fire was burned itself out when it burned away all the fluid, but, there was serious danger to the children.   Again Mary Jane O’Shea tried to interfere with the police and again she was threatened with contributing and being an assessor after the fact to arson.   She retreated to her office and called “downtown.”    I got an anguished telephone call from a Board of Education attorney asking me to control Ms. Berger.    My sympathy was lacking as I told him that she had to protect the children even if Mary Jane thought retro=active abortion was a legitimate school activity.     He informed me that I was not doing my client any favors.
Several weeks went by before the next incident.    The Chicago Schools of 1930 vintage had large windows that required a six or seven-foot pole to be used to raise the window.   These poles usually lay next to window and no one touched them.   One of Ms. Berger’s hoodlums decided that he was going to try for the Olympics, hauled back and threw the pole threw the window.   Like a javelin it hurled barely missing a visitor the school by inches.   He was literally shocked out of skin and like a banshee ran into the office to complain about being almost impaled as a greeting to the school.    Ida appeared the culprit in hand equally angry and demanding that Maryjane do something immediately about this particular juvenile delinquent or she was going to the Juvenile Court and personally see that a dependency petition was filed for the little miscreant.
The next day Ida was removed from the school and placed in the Board of Education library.    I started preparing a bunch of lawsuits, including a woman’s compensation claim based upon the knock Ms. Berger had received to her knee.    Ms. Berger was sent for another psychiatric examination.    This time I went.    Fortuitously, I knew the doctor – he was friend of my fathers and we had a very nice conversation.   The only question he asked Ms. Berger was: “how do you feel?”  her answer was harassed.      His report to the Board was that he found Ms. Berger a very nice middle class lady with no apparent problems.    He did not mention that he and I chewed the fat for about a half an hour and he had barely talked to Ida.
The Board, decided to give Ida a due process hearing.   Of course I attended and contested the conclusions that Maryjane and a Superintendent of schools were reaching.    I suggested that ‘facts’ had to be presented – not just naked conclusions that had no basic of fact.    The hearing came to an abrupt end as the only facts that could be presented just happened to be of a total lack of respect for and action for the parens patrie obligations of the school system toward the children.    A few days later Ida was terminated.
The next morning three proceedings were filed.   1) a suit against the Board of Education to reinstate Ms. Berger to her position retro-actively; 2) a Civil Rights suit pursuant to 42 USCA 1983, and 3) a workman’s compensation action based upon her sore knee.     The Board engaged John Wren, a neighbor and friend, to represent it.     We conducted the usual discovery and clashed in the usual manner.    The District Court Judge (Federal) dismissed the Civil Rights lawsuit saying that Ms. Berger was a non-tenured employee and the employer and the thus the employer’s agents did not violate her civil rights by whatever they did to her.    She had no vested property right in her job.    I took an appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that indeed, it did not matter if Ms. Berger was tenured or not the multiple “health examinations” were a violation of her liberty interest as the Board of Education was a public institution and it could not trample on Ida’s rights.
The Circuit Court judge was literally afraid to dismiss the suit for reinstatement because he was not sure how assigning and appointing for distinguishable.      In point of fact he was more than a little concerned that my argument that the distinction was created by the hue of the skin color of the employee in most instances.   It in fact did appear that a person with a darker hue to his/her skin color was rarely appointed to a position – they were assigned!   
The first claim to come for hearing was the workman’s compensation case.   This happened because neither John or I practiced in the WC arena and we missed a status.   The case was thus sent to an arbitrator and he set it for hearing.   I got a notice, and called John.    The hearing came up and I put on my case.    John vigorous cross examined our doctor.   He insisted that Ida by receiving a blow to her knew lost *** % usage and probably would never recover.   Even I had a bit of trouble with that; however, the arbitrator listened and rule that she lost 30% of the use of the knee.   Where he got that was unknown until I asked him.    He pointed out that he was tired of the Board of Education nit picking everything and decided that he would give then an incentive to appeal.
The Board did appeal.    The appeal was heard almost immediately.   The three members of the commission present heard my mention that the Board of Education had provided a lawyer (at City of Chicago expense) for the person who administered the injury to Ida and from that point on John could have presented the ‘good lord’ as his witness – the case was lost and the decision as to liability affirmed; however, the injury award was augmented to the equivalent of 50%.    An award of substantial attorney fees was made to me as well.     John saw the handwriting on the wall.
The Appeal of the Civil Rights lawsuit dismissal was taking an inordinate amount of time and I appealed to the union to see if they could help me induce the Board into a settlement.   I got a resounding no, and when I mentioned their refusal to John he told me that they were doing most of the research and had been the people to suggest that Ida be fired.    Their energy was being expended against Ida.    
The oral argument before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was quite unique.    Two of the Justices were interested in the liberty argument, while the 3rd justice wanted to know what relationship I had with Justice Arthur Goldberg.    I refused to tell him.  (Justice Goldberg was on the US Supreme Court).    No I answered to a question as to whether or not he had written or contributed to my brief.    I refused to answer if he had read the brief and in essence I told the Judge that my client’s rights were at stake and not that of any other person.     His response was in his dissenting opinion.    The Court ruled for Ida, and found that her liberty interest had indeed be violated.    The Court also ruled that this was to be a non-published decision.  (Rule 23).    Judge Pell had made an ass out himself and his dissenting opinion was an embarrassment.    
The Board of Education of the City of Chicago could not believe what was happening and wanted nothing to do with me, directly or indirectly.    They did file a Petition for Cert to the United States Supreme Court but could not muster the four votes.   They did get two – Rehnquist and White.   
As luck would have it, a young woman was referred to me as she had a problem with the Board of Education.   She got fired for getting pregnant.    I laughed and made an appointment with the personnel director of the Board.    I met with him the next day.    He greeted me as if I was the prodigal son returned and asked me what he could do for me.    I asked him if the Board was regulating the sex life of teachers these days.   His face drained of blood!     I then admonished him for firing my young woman because she got pregnant.    On the spot her ordered her rehired.
To say that I was proud of myself is the understatement of the century – until I got home.    My wife was not really happy with me, as she worked for the Chicago Public Schools and I was raising havoc.    Worse yet two of the defendants in the Civil Rights suit were neighbors.    (It had not occurred to me that these people were the same people who were regularly invited to our home and were among our friend cycle.    She correctly thought that I should not sue neighbors or friends) This time she asked me why I was so smug – she would have done more than fired my client!     My client had gotten pregnant by one of her students!!!!   Woops!
When the Supreme Court rejected the Boards’ Petition for Cert, the case was returned to the District Court for trial.    We got an offer of settlement was very generous and Ida decided to take it.    It was a complete victory.    Ida’s friend was no longer Ambassador to Japan and she was anxious to go West.    She did.   

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