New York City 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 D.O.E. 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 At the Department of Education, the city said, 249 of the 471 complaints were withdrawn and 14 were found to be unsubstantiated.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.”
De Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said a Department of Citywide Administrative Services audit this year of the sexual-harassment claims within the Department of Education vindicated the process. Asked for a copy of the audit, or other documentation, she provided neither.
Asked about why he believes the school system’s culture lends itself to the “hyper-complaint dynamic,” de Blasio 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. ”