Tuesday, September 9, 1952
TESTIMONY OF GEORGE A.
TIMONE, CHAIRMAN, LAW COMMITTEE, BOARD OF EDUCATION,
NEW YORK CITY
TESTIMONY OF GEORGE A. TIMONE, CHAIRMAN, LAW COMMITTEE, BOARD OF
EDUCATION, NEW YORK CITY
Senator FERGUSON. Will you raise your right
You do solemnly swear, in the matter now
pending before this slit committee of the Judiciary Committee of the
United States Senate, that you will tell the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. TIMONE. I do.
Senator FERGUSON. State your full name and
Mr. TIMONE. My name is George A. Timone. My
address is 25 Riverside Drive, and I have been, since 1946, a member of
the Board of Education of the City of New York.
I do not have a prepared statement on the
advice of the corporation counsel, but at the request of our president
and for myself, I would like to make a very brief statement on behalf
of the board.
Senator FERGUSON. We would like to hear from
you just as fully you desire.
Mr. TIMONE. It is the view of our board that
we are indebted to the committee and to you, Senator, and to Dr. Dodd,
for what we could to be a great public service.
Now, as to the reason for this statement, Dr.
Dodd has testified that there are probably 750 teachers in the
metropolitan area who, at least as of 1944, were Communists. I suppose
that a lesser number of that would be in the public-school system.
Mr. MORRIS. That is right. Dr. Dodd was very
clear to testify that that number did not involve only people who are
in the public school system. She did stress that it was private schools
and private colleges also.
Senator FERGUSON. In the educational system.
Mr. TIMONE. That is true.
Well, even if you should take 500 as a figure
in our public-school system, let me say, in the first place, that is
500 too many.
At the same time, it should be said that there
are 38,000 teachers in our public-school system. So that,
percentagewise, we must not let the impression go out that any
substantial percentage of our teachers ever belonged to the Communist
Party or were ever ir the Teachers 'Union, for that matter.
The Teachers Union, parenthetically, is one of
68 different organizations that we have, Senator, in our public-school
system. We have over 700 schools.
I know you have a large organization in
Michigan and Detroit, and 1 think this is much larger.
Now, here is what the board of education has
done, Senator : In February 1941, we dismissed eight teachers. Those
teachers were dismissed following a careful investigation by the
corporation counsel, following hearings that the corporation counsel,
John P. McGrath, himself conducted.
Senator FERGUSON. Does this case that I read
about in the paper, of requiring city employees or government employees
to testify before boards or commissions under a particular charter
provision or ordinance, does that now apply to school teachers ?
Mr. TIMONE. Our view is that it does apply to
school teachers, and we always took that view.
And it is comforting to have the court of
appeals now definitely say that it does. I think that was an aid to us.
Senator FERGUSON. In other words, if a witness
refuses to testify before a board of education or a properly qualified
board, he can be dismissed?
Mr. TIMONE. Yes, sir.
Senator FERGUSON. That is a cause for
Mr. TIMONE. Yes, sir.
Senator FERGUSON. Does this apply even though
the witness says, "I refuse to testify on the grounds that it would
tend to incriminate me?"
Mr. TIMONE. Our view is that it does.
Senator FERGUSON. In other words, the right of
employment is not an absolute right ?
Mr. TIMONE. That is right.
Senator FERGUSON. The right to have a public
job is not an absolute right, but it is discretionary upon certain
conditions, and one of the conditions is that you answer fully any
questions that the boards or the various commissions desire to ask?
Mr. TIMONE. That is true, Senator.
I think that is the effect, too, of the
decision of the United States Supreme Court in March of this year in
sustaining the Feinberg order.
Senator FERGUSON. That is itself not an
absolute right, but it is a qualified public right.
Mr. TIMONE. Public employment and especially
public employment as a school teacher.
I can well understand that one might be
reluctant in dismissing a person in the sanitation department under
certain conditions where, if those same conditions obtained and the
person were a school teacher,
we would take a different view, because the opportunity for mischief by
a school teacher is much greater, in our view, than the opportunity;
for mischief by a sanitation-department employee.
Senator FERGUSON. All right, now you may
Mr. TIMONE. So that at those hearings that
resulted ultimately ii the dismissal of those eight teachers, we had
engaged the services of Theodore Kiendl, who is probably one of the
outstanding trial lawyers of this country, a partner in the John W.
Davis firm. He submitted a report to us. We adopted that report and we
dismissed those teachers.
Seven of those eight were dismissed because
they refused to answer the question : "Are you now, or have you been, a
member of the Communist Party". One was dismissed because we alleged
and proved that he was a member of the Communist Party.
Let me assure you that as to those dismissed
because they refuse to answer the question, that we had some
information—and pretty reliable information—that the people involved
were members of the Communist Party.
But we desired one test case. We felt that we
owed it to education and to the city to present at least one test case
where we squarely charged and proved membership in the Communist Party.
Now, an appeal is pending from our decision.
That appeal has been pending in the appellate division, second
department, for a year and a half, but it has not been pressed.
Senator FERGUSON. When you say it has not been
pressed, would you elaborate on that?
Mr. TIMONE. Yes. I mean that counsel for the
Teachers' Union—and it is not accidental that they represent the eight
individuals who were dismissed in February 1951—started a proceeding
under article 78 for a review of our decision. That review comes before
the appellate division in the second department, which is in Brooklyn.
Their record has not been printed and their appeal has not been pressed.
Senator FERGUSON. When you say it has
not been pressed, would you elaborate on that?
Mr. TIMONE. Yes. I mean that
counsel for the Teachers’ Union–and it is not accidental that they
represent the eight individuals who were dismissed in February
1951–started a proceeding under article 78 for a review of our
decision. That review comes before the appellate division in the
second department, which is in Brooklyn. Their record has not
been printed and their appeal has not been pressed.
In other words, they took an appeal, which has
been pending for almost a year and a half, and they have not pressed it.
Senator FERGUSON. Does that stay your
proceeding of the discharge of the employees?
Mr. TIMONE. That does not stay it, but
something else stays it that I will come to in just a moment, Senator.
Senator FERGUSON. All right.
Mr. MORRIS. When you say it stays it,
Mr. Timone, does that mean stayed by the appellate division, second
department. We have been stayed in another forum and for another
If you wish to come to that now, or later–
Senator FERGUSON. No. Take it up
Mr. TIMONE. Very Well. I will take
it up chronologically and I will make it brief.
Senator FERGUSON. Yes.
Mr. TIMONE. We then went to work full
time for the board of education as our counsel in investigating and
prosecuting similar cases. He did so assign an extraordinarily
capable and experienced attorney, Saul
Moskoff, who is directing our investigation into this problem, devoting
his time exclusively to that, and we have given him a staff.
And just parenthetically, Mr. Moskoff has been
subjected, as the president of our board has been, as our
superintendent of schools has been, and as I have been, to the full
treatment of smears that Dr. Dodd has made allusion to. These
smears consist generally in circulars and dodgers that are distributed
on street corners charging us with being Fascists, charging us with
conducting this investigation only to sidetrack the terrible conditions
existing in our schools and so forth. We have become accustomed
Senator FERGUSON. You must be able to
endure that. This committee, I think, in this morning’s press, in
a statement form the union, was described as Fascist in a similar way.
Mr. TIMONE. We have been receiving that
for quite some years, Senator.
Mr. TIMONE. Now, might I make reference to
another point that Dr. Dodd has mentioned? She was concerned about
people who had been duped into the Communist Party and sincerely have
gotten out. But I say that that problem is not new with us. We have had
a number of cases where a teacher has come in and has said, "Yes, I was
a member of the Communist Party." And they give us the time and the
teacher then says that he got out. And where his subsequent conduct and
activity has not been inconsistent with that resignation, we have
It is the policy of the superintendent and of
the board not to bring charges against those teachers where we believe
that they are sincere in their change. And there have been a number of
cases precisely along that point.
Of course, however, if a teacher should
receive from Mr. Moskoff [Board attorney] a. notice to come in and be
questioned, let's say, in September 1952, and 3 days after the teacher
receives the notice he then resigns from the Communist Party, we would
be a little naive and gullible if we thought that that were a sincere
repentance, a sincere change. We are not swallowing that kind of a
Now, we have had a number, a dozen or more,
resignations from teachers who have been called in for questioning and
who rather than submit to questioning have resigned.
Senator FERGUSON. We find that under the
loyalty program in the various departments of Government, that rather
than be subjected to telling the truth, they would rather resign.
Mr. TIMIONE. Yes. We find that.
Mr. MORRIS. Therefore, Mr. Timone, it is the
position of the board of education that if some teacher who you have
evidence was associated with the Communist Party in the past comes
forward and co-operates completely with you, even to the extent of
making known details of that person's activity in the Communist Party,
that there is no disciplinary action against such a person?
Mr. TIMONE. That is true.
Every case, of course, is judged individually.
We must reach a conclusion as to the sincerity of the resignation.
There can be such a thing as a strategic or
tactical resignation at certain times, and if it is that kind of a
resignation, charges would be brought. If it is a sincere resignation,
charges would not be brought.
So that any teacher who, for some period of
time, has been in the
Communist Party and has gotten out and is sincere about it, I think
need have no real fear of any action that the board of education would
Mr. MORRIS. And is the reason for that the
fact that you are more interested in finding out what the present truth
and present reality is than punishing for some past wrongdoing?
Mr. TIMONE. What we are interested in is this:
We are interested in protecting school children, who are our first
concern, against the damage that can be done and that we feel
inevitably will be done by a Communist teacher. That is the point of
focus rather than any effort to punish somebody for past deeds.
Senator FERGUSON. You realize the real
question of the training of the youth, and if they are to be trained by
actual Communists, you believe that that is such a detriment that that
is the first evil that has to be cured?
Mr. TIMONE. Senator, not only do I believe
that intensely, but let me assure you every member of our board does,
and the superintendent of schools does. And that is the policy of the
board and we are very conscious of that and very sensitive about our
responsibilities on that score.
Senator FERGUSON. And you believe, as a board,
that, on this question of the education, youth can be contaminated and
the minds of the youth can be enslaved even on into the future through
the Communist teacher; is that correct?
Mr. TIMONE. It is correct, sir.
Senator, might I say that the board—as I said,
Mr. Moskoff and the staff have been devoting full time for well over a
year now to this work—this board adopted, in the spring, a statement of
policy. I would like to offer that in evidence, but in two words or
sentences, here is what our statement of policy does :
It says, No. 1, it is our right and our duty
to dismiss Communist teachers, and, No. 2, as a corollary to that, the
superintendent has the right to ask a teacher, where he has good reason
to ask the question, "Are you now, or have you been, a member of the
That is all our statement of policy says. And we give the factual
background and the court decisions to support those conclusions.
Following the adoption of that statement of
policy, the superintendent brought charges against eight additional
teachers, and it is just a coincidence that eight are involved here,
too. They were all charged with refusing to answer the $64 question,
and they were suspended.
The Teachers' Union took an appeal to the
State commissioner of education. That was argued in March of 1952.
You see, appeals may be taken from decisions
of our boards of education even to the State commissioner of education,
or to the courts.
Now, here in April 1952, upon the argument, we
were stayed from proceeding further pending a decision.
Senator FERGUSON. Did the State commissioner
Mr. TIMONE. By the State education department;
technically, at least, by the State commissioner of education.
And we have thus been stayed in three areas.
We have been stayed No. 1, from conducting the hearings on the eight
teachers already suspended, and Col. Arthur Leavitt a member of our
board, together with
Rev. Dr. Coleman, are the two trial examiners appointed by our board to
conduct those hearings.
Although they were appointed in March, they
have not yet conducted any hearings because of the stay.
That is one area in which we have been stayed.
Secondly, we have been stayed in suspending
any other teachers ho have refused to answer whether they are or are
not members of e Communist Party, and there are several such cases, a
number of such cases, that the superintendent would suspend tomorrow
except for the stay.
Then, Mr. Moskoff has been stayed, we have
been stayed from asking any additional teachers "Are you now, or have
you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
So while I don't wish to be understood to
criticize the State commissioner of education, who personally is a very
capable and a very fine person, really the effect of this stay since
last April has brought up comparatively to a standstill our efforts in
weeding out Communists d subversives from our school system.
We are hopeful, very hopeful, that even if we
cannot get a decision the subject matter of the appeal very shortly,
that we can get very shortly a complete lifting of this stay so that we
can proceed as want to proceed.
Mr. MORRIS. Does that mean, Mr. Timone, that,
for instance, in connection with the 10 teachers whom we have summoned
here to testify here tomorrow, does that mean that you are not now in a
position to call these teachers in to ask them whether or not they have
been members of the Communist Party?
Mr. TIMONE. That is what that means. You can
ask the question, but apparently we cannot without violating this
Mr. MORRIS. And that is the situation as it
Mr. TIMONE. That is as it exists this moment.
I know how the State commissioner individually
feels about Communist teachers. I am therefore hopeful that we will get
relief very soon.
Senator FERGUSON. Has he written an opinion in
granting the stay?
MR. TIMONE. It is a so-called informal stay.
We were told what stay was, and we said that a formal stay would be
issued if we not abide or agree to abide by the informal stay, and we
respectfully suggested to him that if he shall not see fit immediately
to lift this informal stay, that he please make it a formal stay so
that we all know more definitely possibly what we may and what we not
Senator FERGUSON. You indicated that
there are moves made to criticize and even smear the board of education
and those connected wtiht his activity against communism in your
Mr. TIMONE. Oh, yes, Senator.
Senator FERGUSON. Is there any
cooperating and praise of your conduct?
Mr. TIMONE. I think the press generally,
apart from the Communists and apart from the circulars being
distributed along the streets, and apart form the Teacher News, which
is the publication of the Teachers’ Union, I think there has been a
recognition by the press of what we have been doing and what we have
been trying to do.
Senator FERGUSON. I thought I would ask
that because the record may indicate that there is only one side, that
everything was going one way.
Now, what about the average teacher in the
union? Is it the union as officials, or is it the union, as
members, that are violently opposing your action?
Mr. TIMONE. Senator, that is a $64
Let me say this : Dr. Dodd has described how,
in 1935, a large group came out of the union. Now, since 1935, this
union has been, must I say, expelled, or may I say kicked out—it has
been kicked out of the American Federation of Teachers, has been kicked
out of the Central Trades and Labor Council, has been kicked out, as of
1951, out of the CIO, has been kicked out of the Joint Committee of
Teacher Organizations because of its following the Communist Party line.
As recently as last year, the CIO found, after
hearings when they expelled the parent organization, of which this is
an integral part, they said that it was an instrument of the Communist
Now, this public criticism has been going on
now since 1935. The number of people in the Teachers' Union has been
Senator FERGUSON. Do you have that number?
Mr. TIMONE. From time to time, they give the
Senator FERGUSON. Do you know what it is now?
Mr. TIMONE. No; I don't. I know that some time
ago they claimed approximately 3,200, but, Senator, you cannot rely on
information you get from that source, as we found out.
Senator FERGUSON. Was 3,200 your last figure?
Mr. TIMONE. Yes. A number of years ago
approximately 3,200. But that includes not only teachers working for
the board of education, that is to say, at the elementary, junior high
school and high-school level, but it includes teachers in private
schools and it includes college teachers, and we have no jurisdiction
Mr. MORRIS. Who was the person, Mr. Timone, in
that Teachers' Union, who would be responsible to this committee to
give the precise membership of that union if this committee should want
Mr. TIMONE. Well, the president.
Mr. MORRIS. Who was the president?
Mr. TIMONE. Abraham Lederman. But he is one of
the eight teachers we dismissed in February 1951 because he wouldn't
answer the question.
But coming back to the original point :
Undoubtedly there are some teachers still in the Teachers' Union who do
not know, or do not appreciate its aims and purposes, who are in there
just because of gullibility.
But, really, how many such can there be? How
gullible can a person become?
Senator FERGUSON. And how long?
Mr. TIMONE. And for how long.
So that it is fair to say that a substantial
percentage of teachers now in the union are in there knowing its
purposes. I don't see how except a comparatively few could be in there
all this time and with all of these exposures and not know its
purposes. I think that is carrying charity to the point where it is
Senator FERGUSON. Do you believe, then, at the
present time, that this teachers' union is dominated by the Communists?
Mr. TIMONE. Oh, completely.
Senator FERGUSON. Controlled, in other words,
rather than dominated; is that right?
Mr. TIMONE. Yes, controlled.
You know, parenthetically, the eight teachers
that we dismissed in February 1951, all eight were officers or members
of the executive committee of the Teachers' Union. And of those now
under suspension, whom we have not tried because of the stay, I believe
that all eight are either members of the executive committee or active
members of the Teachers' Union.
And all those who are now being called for
questioning, but who do not appear because of the stay, all retain the
counsel for the Teachers' Union to represent them.
Might I say, Senator, we talk about getting
Communist teachers out of our system, and we have a duty in that
regard. It mustn't be felt that the board of education thinks that it
completely discharges its problem when we discharge Communist teachers.
That is essentially a negative action—an important negative action, but
We have inaugurated a program and we have a
regular monthly publication that we call Strengthening Democracy, which
gives all our teachers source material in exposing totalitarianism, in
giving them references, in giving them material so that affirmatively
they can strengthen democracy and teach democracy to our children.
That is democracy as you and I here understand
it, not democracy as it has been called so glibly by the Teachers'
So that we have a definite, affirmative
program to teach our children about communism. That is much, much
different, obviously, from teaching our children communism or from
permitting them to be taught about communism by Communist teachers. But
we think they should learn about communism, and we have a definite
program so to do.
But, in the final sentences, Senator, there
are probably more things that we can do, but I didn't wish the
impression to get about—and I am not disputing Dr. Dodd, I believe her
statement implicitly—but you see so many Communist teachers in our
system, and I did not wish anybody to feel that the board of education
was not doing all that it could to cope with the problem.
Senator FERGUSON. But you have, at the present
moment, a limitation, as you say, on what you believe you should be
Mr. TIMONE. A very definite limitation.
Mr. MORRIS. And you, too, are aware of Dr.
Dodd's testimony to the effect that if three teachers are on a faculty,
that they constitute a very formidable unit with respect to spreading
Communist purposes in the school ?
Mr. TIMONE. I believe that implicitly.
Senator FERGUSON. Do you have any other
questions, Mr. Morris?
Mr. Morris. Mr. Chairman, we have had
several requests of individuals in organizations to give testimony here
on this point. Consistent with the express policy of the
committee, I think we should do that in executive session and let the
next public testimony be when these teachers whom we have named testify
Senator FERGUSON. Yes, unless the
committee comes tot he conclusion that at the close of the executive
testimony it should be open to the public and taken in public.
Mr. MORRIS. That is right.
Senator FERGUSON. Then we should feel at
liberty to open the hearings.
Mr. MORRIS. That is right, Senator.
Senator FERGUSON. I want to thank you
for coming in and telling us what the problem is, as you see it as a
member of the board of education, Mr. Timone.
Mr. Timone. Thank you, Senator.
Senator FERGUSON. We did not feel, as I
said, that we were coming here to interfere with your activities as a
member of that board. We believe that education is a local
problem except that it might affect our national security. Then
it becomes a national problem. We want to allow everything that
is possible at the local level. We appreciate your coming in.
Mr. Timone. Far from interfering, we
think you help our efforts.
Thank you, sir.
Senator FERGUSON. We will recess the
open hearings until 2 o’clock tomorrow, and if the committee desires to
open any hearing at any particular time after hearing the executive, we
will do so.
(Thereupon, at 11:45 a.m., a recess was taken,
the hearing to reconvene at 2 p.m., Wednesday, September 10, 1952).