NJ teachers union president: We ‘bend truth’ to ‘defend the worst people’
HAMILTON (Mercer) — The president of this school district's teachers union was caught on video describing how he can "bend the truth" in order to protect teachers accused of wrongdoing and bragging about how he saved teachers who used drugs and shoplifted.
In an undercover video released by Project Veritas, Hamilton Teachers Education Association president David Perry describes his job as defending "even the worst people" from allegations of physical abuse and verbal threats against students.
“I need to know the truth, so that we can bend the truth," Perry says to a Project Veritas agent pretending to be the relative of a teacher who is worried about an altercation he had with a student.
Perry insists that he will not report the teacher to the authorities or school officials, even though state law and school anti-bullying regulations require school officials to immediately report instances of possible abuse or harassment.
Instead, he outlines some methods that the union supposedly uses to protect teachers in these situations.
Backdating reports: "But I'm gonna let you know right now he came in the day after. Even though he didn't, I would say he did," Perry says.
“[If[ the kid’s gonna turn around and say ‘Well he threatened me….’ I can say, ‘No. No no no. On March 22, the day after the incident, Mr. Smith came over to me and told me this is what happened.' And we just wanted to put it on record so that nothing more would come about it.'”
“It covers [the teacher] because he came in and reported it right away and that he was afraid."
Dragging out the process so that surveillance video would be erased: “That’s why I would never wanna bring it up. The longer we wait, the longer there’s no, there’s no camera.“
Instructing teachers not to discuss the incident: "[The teacher] needs to not tell anybody a thing. This has gotta be down the river," Perry says.
"Now if you go to the Hamilton Board of Education and report this, they're gonna call the police and they're gonna call parents and all that s***."
"We don't do that. We don't do that here. I'm here to defend even the worst people [...] It's almost like being a priest. It's my job to protect."
Instructing teachers on what to say: "So when he comes in here [...] I'm going to tell him what to say, basically."
Misrepresent the student's account: “In other words, if you threatened the kid, you didn’t threaten the kid. You said ‘Knock it off or else.'”
"If [the teacher] actually said ‘knock if off or I’ll kill you,’ or ‘I’ll beat the shit out of you’ or ‘I’ll hurt you’ or ‘I’ll hurt your family,’ we don’t say that. It’s a mistake. It was out of the emotions. We don’t even log that in.“
The spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association declined to specifically answer questions about the video, instead casting doubt on the organization, which in the past has been criticized for unfairly editing its videos.
Project Veritas, a conservative group founded by New Jersey native James O'Keefe, is known for using undercover video to embarrass and expose public officials. One of their usual targets is the teachers unions.
Project Veritas released video in 2016 showing Howell teacher Robert Klein at the annual NJEA convention offering drugs to two undercover investigators after checking them for a wire.
"Project Veritas has a long history of releasing deceptively edited videos," NJEA spokesman Steve Baker told New Jersey on Wednesday. "This video that they released has something like 26 edits and cuts in it. They should not be given any credibility whatsoever. There should be no credibility given to this organization. They're not a journalistic organization. They've proven their willingness in the past to use dishonest and illegal tactics to get and fabricate this kind of misleading video."
Baker would not address the specific comments made by Perry in the video.
"I find it frankly shocking that any journalist would be willing to give them any credibility or any coverage. It's disheartening, frankly," Baker said.
Perry, who earns a base salary of $83,400 with more than 35 years in the teachers pension system, did not return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Through a spokesman, Project Veritas said it is "absurd for the NJEA to claim a 20-minute video report with only six cuts was 'selectively edited.’"
They also challenged the NJEA "to explain in what possible context they find the statements 'I’m here to defend even the worst people,' or 'I need to know the truth, so that we can bend the truth' acceptable.
"If NJEA really cared about students, they would address David Perry’s comments directly, instead of attacking Project Veritas."
Baker later emailed a further statement:
Nothing is more important to NJEA members than the safety and wellbeing of the students they are privileged to educate. NJEA members go above and beyond every day to ensure that students are safe, healthy and well educated.
Project Veritas is a political organization with a long history of releasing deceptively edited videos that later prove to have been dishonest and misleading. The founder of Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, in 2010 pled guilty to charges related to his illegal tactics. O'Keefe was sentenced to three years' probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine.
Project Veritas sends secret operatives to lie to other individuals while secretly recording them. The operatives are not speaking about real individuals or incidents. Their false allegations are entirely fabricated for the purpose of creating a false narrative. They then deceptively edit those videos for political purposes, with no regard for truth or honesty.
Project Veritas cannot be trusted as a source and should not be dignified with coverage or response, other than to note that it is a political advocacy organization with a history of using dishonest and illegal tactics to fabricate false stories.
NJEA will continue its unfailing advocacy for students and public schools. Neither NJEA nor its members will be dissuaded from that work because of a manipulative and dishonest attack from an organization with a record as abysmal as Project Veritas.
The Hamilton schools superintendent did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.