A judge ruled that firing a teacher who brought 20 small packages of heroin into a Manhattan Courtroom was “excessive and shocking to this court’s sense of fairness.” The teacher was serving on jury duty when he returned from a lunch break. His backpack set off metal detectors and court security personnel found the heroin inside a cigarette carton. He was arrested.
In his defense, the teacher claimed that he had a past drug problem, but had overcome it. He had not used the backpack in quite some time and claimed to have no knowledge of its contents.
He was given the opportunity to complete a one-day “treatment readiness program.” After six months, the charges were dropped.
The New York City Department of Education, however, was not ready to forgive and forget. It began the process to fire the teacher.
The school system claimed the teacher “caused widespread negative publicity, ridicule, notoriety to the NYC Department of Education.” It alleged the teacher failed to report the arrest, provide the criminal complaint or turn over the disposition. He denied that claim.
The matter went to arbitration where the arbitrator agreed that the teacher had kicked his drug habit and found no evidence the teacher had ever brought drugs into school.
However, he sided with the department in its decision to fire, based on the negative publicity the arrest generated. The arbitrator wrote that the teacher’s “conduct has left the DOE with no ability to know whether or not petitioner has brought the same drugs into a school building posing a risk to students.”
The teacher appealed the ruling to the Manhattan Supreme Court where the judge, looking at the teacher’s otherwise spotless record, ruled in his favor. The judge remanded the case “for a lesser penalty.”