Ripped From Which Headline? "Rubber Room"

Slate's Culture Blog
May 25 2010 11:09 AM

Ripped From Which Headline? "Rubber Room"

We all know that

Law & Order
June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 


rips its stories from the headlines

but which headlines? Now the series has come to an end, and for the last time ever, Brow Beat has matched


s plot points to the events that inspired them.

May 24, 2010, "Rubber Room"

These Are Their Stories
An online video leads the police to a Web site where "Moot" is counting down the days until he attacks a New York City school. The detectives treat the threat seriously and assume it is coming from a student. They try to find Moot by tracking down teachers he has complained about on his site, but they find themselves stonewalled by the teachers union and the board of education. They eventually discover that Moot is Rick Benson, a teacher who was the subject of a malicious student complaint. While his case was under investigated, he was sent to a temporary reassignment center or "rubber room." His girlfriend abandoned him, and Benson became psychologically unhinged. The cops track Benson to a school in Queens at the very moment when he's started a shooting spree. Detectives Lupo and Bernard accost Benson before he kills anyone, though three students were injured. (This makes the final Law & Order a rare episode without a murder.)

This Is the Real Story

As Steven Brill chronicled in an August 2009 New Yorker story , hundreds of New York City schoolteachers who have been accused of misconduct or incompetence are sent to "rubber rooms" while their cases are considered:

Watched over by two private security guards and two city Department of Education supervisors, they punch a time clock for the same hours that they would have kept at school typically, eight-fifteen to three-fifteen. Like all teachers, they have the summer off. The city's contract with their union, the United Federation of Teachers, requires that charges against them be heard by an arbitrator, and until the charges are resolved the process is often endless they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits.

On April 15, 2010, the New York Times reported that the mayor and the teachers unions had agreed to bounce the rubber rooms. Instead, "teachers will be assigned to administrative work or nonclassroom duties in their schools while their cases are pending."


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