Tales From the Hood: Mop and Blow

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

At law, we have the doctrine called “laches” which is not about door fasteners but rather a concept that says you sat on your rights too long. Another doctrine we lawyer use is called “repose” as in there comes a time when a bad actor can finally rest easy. We called Statutes of Repose Statutes of Limitations. Laches is used as a hail Mary play arguing you are disabled because of the passage of time and no action taken by the other side.

I say the time has come to enact Statutes of Limitations and Statutes of Repose for bad acts that one committed many years ago. After the passage of so many years, a person should be able to rest easy and no longer have to defend against sins of the past. If we never let a person forget or move on, we become a society who for any sin, inflicts punishment for the rest of your life.

Seventeen years ago, when he was in his early 20’s, a young man I know was convicted a felony drug offense. He served a period of time and probation. Twice he was violated on probation; both times for positive drug tests. Again, these incidents happened before Bill Clinton was President.

Now, this young man also has five children. Not all of them live with him, but he has been a good father to all. He supports them as best he can and is involved in their lives as much as circumstances permit. This is a man I have come to respect because he understands his priorities and obligations to his children first.

This young man was lucky enough to find employment as a custodian with the City of Syracuse School District. At the date of his hire and interview as well as on his job application, he made a full and complete disclosure of his criminal history. They were sufficiently impressed that he was immediately hired. After three months, his temporary status was made “permanent”.

Being a custodian is as honorable a profession as any other. Besides, two of the man’s sons were attending the school at which their father worked. Having your Dad look over your shoulder all day at school tends to keep a kid in line. Both boys were thriving and staying out of trouble.

One day, the school gets a letter from the New York State Department of Education. In sum and substance, the school was ordered to immediately terminate the man’s employment. The stated basis therefor was the seventeen year old criminal conviction.

In speaking with Department counsel, I came to learn that the policy is that no school district was to hire anybody until approved by the Education Department. Notwithstanding that the man had worked at the school for eight months and was already granted ‘permanent’ status. The Department was not impressed. We were invited to appeal but the school year is almost over. No decision or reversal has been forthcoming.

What kind of society have we become that even a custodian cannot be forgiven his sins nearly two decades previous. He is not a rocket scientist, a bus driver, or someone in a position where the “youthful indiscretions” would be relevant. Though it is not relevant to do the job of President of the United States, for some reason it is relevant to the Department of Education and the credentialing of a custodian.

Even though I have come to admire this man a lot, it hurts me to see how hard he is taking this backstabbing by the State of New York. He paid his dues. Now he is just trying to do the right thing and pay his bills and support his children.

Without a legitimate job, what options do we leave him? If he steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, will you defend him? Whom among you is willing to rise up and save another life from despair, hopelessness, and possibly criminal activity.

Of course, we the taxpayers now get to foot the cost of support for the children. Some education they are getting.

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