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Lawmakers Push For Investigation Into Secret “Problem Codes” Database Kept on Unvaccinated Teachers

Secret databases that can work behind the scenes to have major impacts on people’s lives are increasingly common. In this case, fingerprints were also kept on file.

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A group of nine Congressional representatives from New York have taken a united front, urging the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) to conduct a full investigation regarding secret “problem codes” databases, alongside fingerprints, that were kept on teachers who opted not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The representatives have penned a letter to the NYC DOE Chancellor, David Banks, expressing their concerns.

The gravity of the issue is rooted in the NYC DOE’s utilization of the same “problem codes” database — ordinarily assigned to individuals accused of severe offenses like child abuse, rape, or assault—for educators who were put on unpaid leave due to their refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as per an internal email in 2022. The comparison of unvaccinated educators with individuals implicated in heinous crimes has created a maelstrom of concerns.

Mary Holland, former president of the Children’s Health Defense (CHD), an organization actively advocating for a bipartisan congressional investigation since March, was emphatic about the lack of transparency. She stated that the city’s “unwillingness to be transparent about how and when these codes are used and under what circumstances requires a thorough and complete investigation.”

Kim Mack Rosenberg, CHD’s acting general counsel, applauded the lawmakers’ call for an investigation, adding that the codes were “intended for use in connection with grievous allegations of misconduct, not for teachers lawfully attempting to protect their rights.”

Adding to the chorus of concerns, Michael Kane, national grassroots organizer for CHD and founder of Teachers For Choice, elucidated the detrimental impact of these codes on the educators’ careers. He referred to the codes as a “Scarlet Letter,” and highlighted that some educators were denied employment opportunities even outside New York City due to these codes.

The New York City Hall, however, has stated that external organizations do not have access to these codes. Nevertheless, the lawmakers remain skeptical. They point out that the “problem codes” have had serious ramifications for current and former employees.

The letter’s lead author, Rep. Nicholas Langworthy, criticized City Hall for “false and misleading statements” concerning the use and consequences of these codes on educators’ livelihoods.

The letter posed several questions to Chancellor Banks, including inquiries regarding the purpose and use of these codes, the criteria for assigning them, their consequences, and whether this information was disseminated to law enforcement agencies. The lawmakers also sought to know the city’s plan to rectify the situation.

The alleged assignment of these problem codes was initially disclosed in an affidavit submitted to a federal court in February.

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