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Rhee: Teachers fired for having sex with students

Saturday - 1/23/2010, 4:09pm  ET

WASHINGTON - D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee says some of the 266 teachers who were laid off last fall either had sex with students or hit them.

Rhee would not get into specifics with "Fast Company" magazine, but did say that one teacher missed 78 days of school.

George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers Union, tells WTOP the chancellor owes the teachers an apology.

"It is an unfortunate and dangerous statement to paint all these teachers as child abusers is simply not true. She owes the teachers an apology. It is simply not the case. We are not aware of any cases of teachers being charged with sexual assault. it is reckless and damages the reputations of a lot of teachers -- it's just not true."

Rhee made the statements in response to union claims that she made up a budget crisis to get rid of older teachers. She and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the firings as part of a $43.9 million budget shortfall.

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee told the magazine. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray tells WTOP he's stunned by what Rhee told Fast Company, and wants her to explain why this information is just coming out.

"If, in fact, we had teachers who physically abused children, or if they sexually abused children that should have been reported right away, law enforcement should have been involved and the public should have known about this."

Gray wants to know more information about the abuses that allegedly occurred and why Rhee used the budget shortfall as a reason to fire more than 200 teachers.

"This is not a budget issue," says Gray. "This is an issue in which we have laws being broken, with children and it should be treated that way."

Gray says he wants Rhee to explain her comments on Monday.

Rhee fired 266 educators and 122 school employees in early October of 2009 as part of mass reduction in force. The controversial firings drew criticism from city councilmembers who say the teachers were fired illegally.

The union has sued the District saying the firings could have been avoided.

Rhee's office has not returned repeated phone calls for more information.

Rhee was profiled in Fast Company Magazine in 2008.

Mark Segraves contibuted to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)