Please tell me this is illegal!!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by teachin4ever, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. teachin4ever

    teachin4ever Cohort

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    Jul 7, 2011

    Hey everyone,

    I told the story on here a while ago of how my contract wasn't renewed because my P didn't like me.

    Okay, so I had an interview and a demo lesson at another school. It went really well and the P there told me that I did a great job. I ended up not getting the job (but it went to a friend, which I was happy about). I found out through ANOTHER friend that works for that school that the P called my former P and my former P told the P that I was difficult to work with and didn't get along well with others (which is a LIE). So this friend who works there said the P said that's why she didn't hire me.

    Isn't this illegal? I am tired of this crazy woman RUINING my life. What can I do??
     
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  3. The Fonz

    The Fonz Math teacher (for now...)

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    Jul 7, 2011

    i may be wrong, but i think you can sue for slander. When people call former employers or references, they can not say anything negative.
     
  4. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I think they can. That's sortof the point of calling references, I thought?
     
  5. janney

    janney Cohort

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    From: http://www.references-etc.com/employment_faq.html#q8

    Q Is it against the law for an employer to make negative comments about me?

    A Depending on the state you live in, many states allow an employer to make negative comments as long as they are made in "good faith." In addition, when an employer is asked whether you would be eligible for rehire, they are under no obligation to say yes. When an employer is asked if they would enthusiastically recommend you for the position you are applying, they are under no obligation to say yes. These two comments alone could kill your chances of getting a job on the spot.

    Q What is Slander, Defamation and Blacklisting?

    A Slander and Defamation - are the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations meant to defame and damage another persons reputation. It is illegal. Blacklisting - is the deliberate attempt to prevent or boycott a person from obtaining employment. It is also illegal.

    If you suspect your former employer is making false statements about you, or deliberately sabotaging your ability to obtain employment, you should definitely let us investigate. Our written report can document this fact, and put a stop to it. References-etc is not in the practice of giving out legal advice. You should contact a lawyer if you have questions.
     
  6. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    By no means am I suggesting that Monster.com is a legal expert, but I would think they would be fairly accurate. This is from their website. Kike the article suggests, I think we make the mistake of policy for law.

    What Can Former Employers Legally Say About Me?
    By Paul W. Barada, Monster Salary and Negotiation Expert

    Many job seekers think there are laws out there restricting what former employers can say about them. A lot of folks may be confusing the word "law" with the word "policy."

    Legality or Policy?

    While many companies have internal policies that define what employees can and cannot say about current or former employees, those policies fall far short of being laws in any sense. Policies are nothing more than rules generated by the HR department and adopted by a company. They include everything from how many paid vacation days the company offers to rules about attendance and punctuality. But they are not laws that some legislative body external to the company has made to which a criminal penalty has been attached. That is the difference between the rules a company decides to adopt and laws that make it illegal to do things like speed or run stop signs.

    For example, numerous job seekers wonder, "What can a former employer legally say about me?" If that question is taken literally, the answer is "anything." I'm not aware of any laws that restrict or bar employers -- or anyone else -- from exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

    That is not to suggest, however, there are no consequences associated with what is said, especially if it's an intentional lie. In other words, freedom of speech is not absolute. The classic example is you can't shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater and claim you're not responsible for any injuries you cause, because you were just exercising your right of free speech.

    Similarly, although there are no laws restricting what prospective employers can ask either, there may be legal consequences if a hiring decision is based on the answers. For instance, asking questions about age, race, sex, religion, national origin and so forth, all of which are federally protected categories, isn't unlawful, but it certainly is unlawful to make an employment decision based on the answers to any of these questions. You can ask, but if you act on the answer, there very likely will be negative legal consequences.

    The Truth Will Set You Free

    What does all this mean? Generally speaking, it means that as long as a former employer offers honestly held opinions about a former employee or states a documented fact about that person, there's not much a former employee can do about it. While it is true that many companies choose to create policies limiting what is said about a former employee to merely confirming job titles and dates of employment, I'm not aware of any legal consequences for saying more, as long as it's the truth. On the other hand, if the company does have a policy that prohibits saying more, you probably won't go to jail for violating it, but you could be fired. And if you intentionally and maliciously lie, you could also be sued.

    What This Means for You

    From the job seekers' standpoint, this whole issue can be seen as something very much like a double-edged sword. Companies that restrict what can be said by policy may be hurting a good employee's chances of landing another job, because, so the thinking goes, if this candidate did a good job, why wouldn't a former employer be willing to say so? Many prospective employers see no-comment policies as a definite red flag. On the other hand, if a former employer intentionally and maliciously lies about a former employee, the result can be the same -- no job offer. If that's the case, and you think a former employer is intentionally lying about you, call a lawyer.

    It's not so much a matter of what a former employer can legally say or not say about you; it's more a question of what the employee has given a former employer to talk about in terms of performance, dedication and contributions
    .
     
  7. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    Jul 7, 2011

    I do not think it is illegal.
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Jul 7, 2011

    The best you can do is contact a lawyer. I'm sorry you are going through this.

    Do you have to use this person as your reference? Can you pick someone else in the school or district?
     
  9. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    Mopar- I don't even think you have to use the P as a reference and this could still happen.

    My husband ex-principal told his entire staff that when he starts the hiring process the first thing he does (after selecting the candidate through interviews) is to call the former principal, whether listed as a reference or not, and then the references.

    I always use this as a caution for myself- you do not need to list them as a reference.
     
  10. Math

    Math Cohort

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    Jul 7, 2011

    Well slander is something about the person that isn't true. So if your former P is lying... I would say you can definitely sue the P for slander.
     
  11. Mrs. Q

    Mrs. Q Cohort

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    Jul 7, 2011

    In Texas, if anyone calls you for a reference, you CANNOT give negatives about them - you can only state if they would be eligible for re-hire.

    You can sue them on ethical grounds and for slander.
     
  12. teachin4ever

    teachin4ever Cohort

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    The frustrating thing is I DID NOT use her as a reference. I put my assistant principal, who is much more professional. The P said she always contacts the former P of potential employers, though.

    Furthermore, I also found out from the current teacher at this school that the P had planned on hiring me until she talked to my former P and heard what she had to say about me. That made her go with her second choice.

    I am in such a bad place right now. Now, every time I have an opportunity, it will be pulled out from under me thanks to the lies my former P will say about me. I am honestly thinking about quitting teaching and just doing something else where I don't have to deal with the politics and BS.
     
  13. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 7, 2011

    In my area they can't share too much. They can give glowing reports, but not negative, so it's obvious anyway.
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I would be very surprised to learn that it's illegal to give negative reports when called to give a reference. It might violate a district's policy, but I strongly doubt that it's illegal. I could be wrong. Is anyone able to find a law on the books anywhere saying one way or the other?

    I think that slander would be very difficult to prove. Even if this qualifies as slander, I don't know how you would prove it.

    I'm sorry you're going through this. :( Just keep swimming, I guess.
     
  15. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I can't speak to the legality of information that is given by a reference. Here, it is expected that one of your references is your current (or most recent) administrator; if that name is not included, it sends up many red flags.
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 7, 2011

    In the future explain that you would prefer that the AP be called as the principal has not handled your past reference requests well.
     
  17. chicagoturtle

    chicagoturtle Fanatic

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    Interesting. My former principal was a bit shady. I was looking to leave but didn't want to stir the pot- so only told one person at my school until I was offered the job. That one person wasn't the principal, but was the case manager (supervisor of Special Ed).


    From what I have heard, people aren't supposed to say anything except verify employment. But there are several codes developed among principals. I work for a large district, but there are many connections.

    Additionally, sometimes principals will give glowing references for people the want to rid themselves of. Sucks for the new school, but it happens- probably more than we know.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jul 7, 2011

    If what you were told was true, and if what your former P said was untrue, then you might have a case for slander. Proving it, however, will likely be very difficult, because as of now, you have a "he said, she said", and none of it's from any of the primary players.

    Going forward, however, there is something you can do: Damage Control. Bring up the issue with the former P first. Say something like "I realize it may be policy to contact my most recent principal, but it has come to my attention that he is not handling references well. If you could also please talk to my old assistant principal, and so and so from my old team to get a more rounded picture of my previous employment, I would really appreciate it."

    This is exactly how I handled my old immediate supervisor from my college position. I provided his bosses name, plus the dean and the campus president and several professors' names. My new boss remarked that after talking to several other people, it became apparent that the problem with my old immediate supervisor was him and not me.
     
  19. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Jul 7, 2011

    It may or may not be against a district's policy to give poor recommendation, but it is not "illegal."

    This is why most principals ask questions like this "In your opinion, was this person a good teacher?" rather than "Is this person a good teacher?" Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and it is not slander to give a negative opinion, unless you give a specific example and it is a lie. Even then, it would be impossible to prove.

    This is why it is so important to stay on a principal's good side in a school, because it can be all but impossible to get another job without that essential reference.
     
  20. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    I think this statue says that they can't black-list, but a former employer can give a written statement as to why you left or were fired. This is from Texas Labor Code http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/

    SUBCHAPTER D. RESTRICTIONS ON BLACKLISTINGSec. 52.031. BLACKLISTING OFFENSE; PENALTY. (a) In this section, "blacklist" means to place on a book or list or publish the name of an employee of an individual, firm, company, or corporation who was discharged or who voluntarily left that employment, intending to prevent the employee from engaging in or securing employment of any kind with any other person, in either a public or a private capacity.(b) A person commits an offense if the person:(1) blacklists or causes to be blacklisted an employee; or(2) conspires or contrives by correspondence or any other manner to prevent an employee discharged by a corporation, company, or individual from procuring employment.(c) An offense under this section is punishable by:(1) a fine of not less than $50 or more than $250;(2) imprisonment in jail for not less than 30 days or more than 90 days; or(3) both the fine and imprisonment.(d) This section may not be held to prohibit a corporation, company, or individual from giving, on application from a discharged employee or a person desiring to employ the employee, a written truthful statement of the reason for the discharge. The written statement may not be used as the cause for a civil or criminal action for libel against the person who furnishes the statement.Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 269, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.




    I really think you are right Caesar ~ companies may have policies to keep themselves safe from libel or slander, put I don't think there are any laws that prevent companies from answering questions or giving a bad reference.
     
  21. teachin4ever

    teachin4ever Cohort

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    Thanks, everyone for all the research you posted and information you shared.

    I guess I'm out of luck. I just feel so defeated, and it is so frustrating that even when I don't work for that horrible woman anymore, she still manages to stick it to me.

    I still have to hear back from one more place I interviewed at, but if nothing pans out this summer, I'm going to have to start looking into other professions.

    I think it's just horrible that one person, who never should have been a principal in the first place, now has the power to keep me from getting a teaching job.
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think it's a matter of opinion.

    If she says you didn't work there when you did, it's a lie.

    If she says that, in her opinion, you were hard to work with, it's not a lie, even if you happen to disagree strongly.

    And suing the principal for slander would effectively blacklist you for the forseeable future.
     
  23. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    One of the earlier posts suggested that the baseline for slander is "good faith." Thus, her opinion that you were hard to work with is sincere and not slander. She may be a jerk, and completely wrong, but unless you can show that she said that in bad faith (ie, she didn't believe it) you're out of luck.

    However, one thing about the law is that what's true is sometimes less important than what people fear. This is why everyone thinks it's "illegal" to ask personal questions. It's absolutely not illegal to ask. It's illegal to act upon the answers (this bit was in the Monster.com text INTeacher posted). But everyone thinks the questions themselves are illegal.

    I bring this up because a lawyer can draft what's called "cease and desist" letter for you. This basically tells a person that what they are doing is wrong and that if they don't stop you will sue. You may or may not win, but it would be expensive and embarrassing for her. So the letter lets her know that she's in legal jeopardy and may help her see that it's time to stop.

    Often, a cease and desist will push a company or individual to cut it out. They're really common in patent litigation, which is how I know about them. I'm not a lawyer but my spouse is.

    Anyway, it's something to think about. I think the advice about how to encourage employers to talk to your AP was excellent.
     
  24. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    I'm the kind of person who would march my fanny into the former principal's office and ask her why she feels the need to keep me from getting a job. I'd want her to say it to my face.

    Then I'd send her a "cease and desist" letter from a lawyer. It doesn't cost much to do so. And it can't hurt.

    Then I'd do what MMSWM did. Be upfront with the next principal, tell him/her what is going on, and get plenty of other references that show that you were very good at your job. Bring along those all important test scores if you can. Unfortunately, that's bottom line for many.
     
  25. paperheart

    paperheart Groupie

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    Have you called your teacher union/organization? They would have the best advice, most likely.

    I feel for you. My former principal did not affect my future employment, but she had a completely opposite view of me than was true or any other principal I'd had. Whereas in three other schools I was considered top notch in behavior management she thought I needed improvement (after one classroom visit when all kids were working and despite the fact my kids walked in a perfect line etc) In one of the schools I was even asked to mentor a new teacher on behavior management. She made a statement that I didn't seem to like my students-- I went to their soccer and softball games and they adored me. All my students passed the state exam and 78% got commended THAT YEAR and she still despised me. I never understood it and found it unprofessional and upsetting and discouraging. I'm still irritated with myself that I didn't speak up for myself because she was wrong and I had proof but I said nothing. My point is her negative opinion was wrong and I had teaching awareds and visits from former students and oodles of other proof against her. Its a really dark place for you right now, but don't give up teaching because of this one crappy person. There's a solution somewhere.
     
  26. pete2770

    pete2770 Comrade

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    I see your options as follows:

    Quit teaching, which you said was an option (please don't).

    Keep trying without modification.

    Go meet with the old P and kiss her rear up and down until you're assured she's a positive reference, and keep trying.

    Keep trying, and after interviews make note that your professional working relationship with your principal was strained, but you worked well with all other admins.

    You're going to have to do something. Personally, I would kiss butt and never leave a place I worked without everyone thinking I loved them.
     
  27. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    :agreed:
    ---------------
    I think most people go into teaching or any job with the best intentions and with the attitude that we are willing to stay on our principal's 'good side' (if they have one), not ruffle any feathers, stay under the radar, nod and do our jobs quietly. However, when you become the target of a bully principal or boss, you have to speak up for yourself and your rights and that's why some teachers end up in horrible situations. I'd fight, I'd go to the board or human resources if I had to, but I would not let one person ruin my career like that especially if I know I have a good case and did nothing wrong.
     
  28. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    I think that would be considered heresay unless the P was willing to testify as to that actually happening. Your friend then might get into trouble for discussing this with you because that would be considered confidentiality. I think there is no way to prove this unless that P was willing to speak up... and what are the chances of that? He obviously took the other P's word for it initially... It is a lose-lose situation. I would take that P off my references and use an AP or a team leader instead. Good luck!!!!!!
     
  29. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    I am sorry your P was contacted and that you did not list this person as a reference. I saw that after my post. You will have to hope that the next P that interviews you will use the references that you list. I suppose that you P is listed as your last administrator which is why this other P decided to call her. I think I would list the AP as the supervisor in charge and leave your P's name off your resume altogether.
     
  30. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think the person who could potentially get into trouble would be the person involved in the actual (alleged) conversation, i.e. the principal. A third party (the friend, in this case) who heard gossip isn't bound by the same confidentiality laws or policies as the person actually involved in the conversation.
     
  31. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    I don't think you can call a person's opinion wrong. You might not agree or like it, but that doesn't make it "wrong". What kind of proof can you offer that contradicts the principal's opinion?

    I don't think I'd be suing anyone. You could pretty much kiss any future job goodbye.
     
  32. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    Someone's opinion of you is their opinion so it's not slander, lies, or necessarily untrue. Both principals could just deny the conversation and say that nothing was said of the sorts. You would have to legally take someone to court to get them to tell the 100% truth. This would cost a lot of money and there would be no real reward from it.

    As SCTeach said, this is really a lose-lose situation. Your friend will probably get in trouble or have her life/career made difficult. You will not get a job- just because the principal said something about you doesn't require anyone to give you a job- and may potentially be blacklisted. Prinicpals do talk and just like us they don't always talk in professional settings so this could be the topic at the next dinner out after a conference and your reputation could be ruined forever.
     
  33. teachin4ever

    teachin4ever Cohort

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    Thanks again for sharing your opinions. I don't plan on suing anyone. Like many of you mentioned, I would have to prove it, go to court, etc. and it's just not worth it.

    It just kills me that I put up with a bunch of nonsense while I worked there, hoping that once I got out, I would be free of her maliciousness. But that's not the case.

    My first year there, she told me that while I was a great teacher, she wanted me to start going to the bar after work with her and the other teachers to work on building better staff relations. She actually wrote in my file (as a weakness) that I didn't attend after school functions with the staff. Another time, she literally yelled at me in front of my co-workers for not saying good morning to her when I came into work. When I politely asked to speak to her regarding a decision she had made regarding one of my students, she rolled her eyes at me and told me I needed to learn that as principal, she has certain perks and one of them means she gets to make the final decision without anyone else's consent. NUMEROUS times she tried getting me (and others) to tell her which teachers were talking about her behind her back. I never did, and she took that as me being against her.

    This is just some of the crap I've had to deal with. And even though she got rid of me and she'll never have to work with me again, she's making it her vendetta to ensure I never get a teaching job again. That's not just unprofessional - that's evil.
     
  34. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    teachin4ever, this principal surely sounds a lot like one I had 4 years ago. She sounds exactly like yours.

    I would gather as many letters of recommendation as I can from different people, like the AP you mentioned, and be upfront with future principals about this situation.
     
  35. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    She sounds like a P I had once too. Luckily I stayed under the radar MOST of my time with her. On the one occasion that she was talking about me behind my back, I was actually walking by her office and heard it in the hallway. I LOST it. I walked in there knowing that other teachers had already been to human resources about her erratic behaviors. I told her and the VP that I wanted a meeting with HR immediately. I told them both that I was aware of numerous times when the P was slanderous to not only myself but my coworkers. I was so angry that I was yelling. When the VP tried to talk to me about it, I refused and said that I wanted someone from HR there as a witness. The P went and closed the door and apologized profusely telling me that it was just a simple misunderstanding. She said that she felt that I undermined her authority.... Uh.... HOW??? By teaching small children??? My test scores were exemplary, my parents in my class LOVED me, was highly requested by parents, and my evaluations were exemplary each year. I calmed down finally and went to my classroom and documented the entire event. I stuck only to the facts and put only the truth that I could back up with dates and with personal witnesses. I then emailed the VP and said that I am a forgiving person, but I wanted to document the series of events that had happened so that if there are any more incidents, we could submit my letter to HR. I cc.d the principal and again, said that all was forgiven and that I hoped that I would no longer be subjected to the kinds of behaviors that were outlined in my letter. I said that I was ready to move forward in a positive and professional manner.

    BTW- She NEVER gave me a hard time again. Teachers thought she LOVED me the way she gave me preferential treatment. I knew the truth of it.

    This P was finally asked to leave the district. She finally pulled her last crazy act and it was the final straw for the district.
     
  36. Mrs.SLF

    Mrs.SLF Comrade

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    Jul 8, 2011

    I am so very sorry that you're going through this; my first P was basically the same. The only difference was that she actually liked me even though I told her, multiple times, how much I disagreed with her decisions in our school. It got so bad that the entire middle school staff had to call school police because she refused to do anything after a student nearly killed another. I'm not even exaggerating-wish I were. One student held a much smaller kid with hand, against a wall, and choked him until he had a seizure. The victim never had a history of seizures. The P did nothing. Literally, nothing. We called school police and they came to our school. What did the P do in return? She brought all of us into the conference room and chastised us for not allowing her to handle the problem that did not concern us. I'm pretty sure two of my students getting into an altercation that could have killed the other was my business. However, she would have never thought about giving me a bad reference (not that I would have ever used her). Why? Because I had proof from the very beginning in my observations and evaluations that showed nothing but glowing appraisals of my work. It also helped that I was tenured at the time because it definitely allowed me the opportunity to speak out against injustice in my school. Unfortunately, she is somehow still at that dysfunctional school. Amazingly.

    I've digressed. Anywho, I'm crossing my fingers for you that something comes your way because it is clearly nothing more than (as my students would say) "pettyness".
     

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