Two Brooklyn high school teachers fired for having a lesbian tryst on school property should get their jobs back, a Manhattan appeals court decided Thursday.
Alini Brito, a Spanish teacher, and Cindy Mauro, a French teacher, both at James Madison High School, have been fighting for reemployment since January 2011, when they were fired for allegedly hooking up in the back of a classroom. Brito, 38, and Mauro, 31, were caught in the act by a janitor during a school singing competition in December 2009.
“The penalty of termination of unemployment is shockingly disproportionate to (their) misconduct,” the five-judge Manhattan Appellate Division panel ruled. The judge criticized city officials who had taken such drastic action against the teachers for a relatively minor offense.
Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger did not mince words in the court’s decision.
“So what are we left with here?” Schlesinger wrote. “We have children who are deprived of a first-class, caring teacher, and a teacher who, due to one sensational, publicly exploited incident where she exhibited extremely poor judgment, is deprived of continuing a career she loves and excels at.”
“That is not a good balance, in the opinion of this court. In fact, the imbalance is shockingly bad.”
“I can tell you one thing for sure: My clients will be happy to be back in the classroom doing a job they love,” their lawyer, Michael Valentine, told the New York Daily News. “They were both good at what they did.”
Valentine also said the teachers should be entitled to back pay for the time spent in the legal embroilment.
Brito and Mauro lost their jobs when their indiscretion went public. City education officials then reviewed the case and opted for a less severe penalty.
The pair has consistently denied that the encounter took place, claiming that they went into the dark classroom so Brito, who is diabetic, could get some candy to stabilize her blood sugar.
But whatever happened that night, the appeals court decided that it was not enough to negate Mauro’s “unblemished disciplinary record and consistent satisfactory teacher ratings,” or Brito’s enthusiastic reviews from supervisors.
The New York Daily News reports that James Madison High School has something of a sordid history of sexual misconduct. Teacher Erin Sayer pleaded guilty last year to having sex with a 16-year-old student, receiving 10 years’ probation, while teacher Allison Musacchio was investigated for an inappropriate relationship with a male student in 2009.