Justice for Ilana Rothbein
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Ilana Rothbein has been a champion for children with special needs since she's been a child herself. There were many personal incidents that reinforced her commitment: Defending her brother who has epilepsy from neighborhood bullies. Shielding a special needs camper from other aggressive campers. Playing with a child who sat in her wheelchair on the sidelines while the other children ignored her.
As a teenager, Ilana started Chores-for-Charity to raise awareness and funds for NYU's Epilepsy Center. Ilana was a Distinguished Finalist in The Prudential Spirit of Community Award program, and received special acknowledgment from Tony Coehlo, the former House Majority Whip and the principal author of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and former NJ governor, Jon Corzine.
Becoming an Occupational Therapist was a natural progression in her mission to help special needs children. After college, she earned her Masters in Occupational Therapy. Ilana has served faithfully and commitedly for four years with the NYC DOE. She had an unblemished record. Yet, she was recently fired by the NYC DOE for 2, 30 minute sessions of disputed student service and session recording, compared to over 6,000 hours of dedicated work serving her mandated special needs students.
HERE IS THE IRONY: Ilana was complying with the email mandate of her Assistant Principal to watch the students in the cafeteria in the morning for safety reasons. She provided her two mandated students a service of observation which is recognized by the NYC DOE OT Guideline as a valid service and was consistent with the reason she was in the cafeteria - to watch the students for safety. Yet, she was fired.
The school administration alleged that Ilana did not provide her two students with mandated services despite claiming to have done so in her SESIS notes. However, Ilana was never apprised of the "alleged violations" when they occurred, or given a warning, which she was entitled to. There was never any attempt to alert her to a problem or help her address the issue in question. Instead, Ilana was blindsided with an OSI investigation initiated by her principal at the request of the AP. The OSI report was filled with unsubstantiated accusations, errors and hearsay comments. The report was discussed with Ilana at a disciplinary meeting and followed by her termination. How could this have happened?
Was there any personal animosity involved? Was there some personal bias towards her? Was it because the AP was told by the Principal that she had a confidential meeting with Ilana and her UFT rep and Ilana reported that the AP had been harassing her with unfounded allegations?
One UFT rep called her case "arbitrary, capricious, with the most severe punishment." Ilana cannot renew her OT license and her career as an occupational therapist is ended, almost before it has begun.
Caring for others is what Ilana does best. Now her skills and experience are being discarded without justifiable cause.
Speak up for Ilana! Tell Chancellor Carmen Farina that we need dedicated therapists who care about students, not punish them!
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