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Sexual harassment claims at Department of Education are 'inflated,' Mayor de Blasio says

Less than 2 percent of sexual harassment allegations at the Department of Education were substantiated over the past 4 years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed the few credible

Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed the few credible sexual harassment claims at the city department of education on a "hyper-complaint dynamic." Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday blamed the public school system’s low substantiation rate of sexual harassment claims on a “hyper-complaint dynamic” peculiar to the Department of Education “that has inflated their numbers.”

“It’s a pretty well-known thing in the educational world,” de Blasio said when asked about statistics, released Friday, showing that over the most recent four-year period, the city found 7 of 471 sexual harassment complaints, or less than 2 percent, credible.

“Some are absolutely sincere. Many, I’m sure, are absolutely sincere. We take them very seriously. We have to investigate everything,” he said at an unrelated event. “We treat everything with equality when it comes to an investigation. But I’m also trying to be honest about something that is different at DOE than a lot of other places.”

On Friday afternoon, the de Blasio administration released data showing the city had reached settlements in 32 sexual harassment cases and paid out about $4.7 million over the same four-year period. There were 1,312 complaints, of which 221, or nearly 17 percent, were found to be credible. At the Department of Education, the city said, 249 of the 471 complaints were withdrawn and 14 were found to be unsubstantiated.

“Some people, inappropriately make complaints for other reasons,” de Blasio said. “Not just — I’m not even sure it’s ever about sexual harassment but it is unfortunately a part of the culture and it has to be addressed separately.”

Asked about why he believes the school system’s culture lends itself to the “hyper-complaint dynamic,” he said: “I can’t give you the sociological reasons; I’m saying it is a reality we have to address.”

De Blasio made the remarks at City Hall, where he was unveiling a plan to put an additional $125 million a year into city schools to bring more fairness to how various schools around the city are funded. According to schools spokesman Will Mantell, the average per-pupil spending is $23,560.

But de Blasio’s announcement was eclipsed by questions about how the public schools handle sexual-harassment allegations.

Asked about the figures, de Blasio’s new schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, noted that the problem predates his tenure.

“With all due respect,” he said, “that’s a B.R. question, which means Before Richard. ”

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