LOS ANGELES (CN) – A quadriplegic high school teacher who was fired in September soon will lose his health insurance as a Court of Appeal decides whether the Los Angeles Unified School District was right to fire him after a school counselor accused him of sexual harassment. The teacher, who has cerebral palsy, was accused of touching a fellow employee’s breast.
Matthew In Ho Kim started teaching special education at Los Angeles’ Grant High School in 1998, his attorney Lawrence Trygstad said in an interview.
The school fired him after he was accused of touching a school counselor’s breast during a parent-teacher conference.
“There were three people in the meeting: the counselor, an aide and Kim,” Trygstad said. “The parent never showed. But the counselor said she bent over Mr. Kim to understand something he was saying and his hand came up and supposedly touched her.”
Trygstad said that could have been a spontaneous movement caused by Kim’s disability.
“My client has severe cerebral palsy,” Trygstad said. “But on that basis they removed him and placed him in the district office.”
The district’s ensuing investigation allegedly revealed other instances of inappropriate touching.
“They went back and interviewed students and staff and uncovered that someone had allegedly been touched on the head and someone else on the leg,” Trygstad said. “An aide said she was standing next to him and he supposedly touched her breast. But she said she never wanted to file charges against him and she remained his aide the whole time he was at the school.”
Fearing lawsuits, the school district removed Kim from the classroom and began dismissal proceedings against him in 2003. But the Commission on Professional Competence ruled in 2005 that Kim should be allowed to keep his job until the end of the investigation. Their ruling was overturned by the Los Angeles Superior Court, a decision that Kim is appealing.
According to his complaint, the district sent Kim a letter informing him that he was not to report to work “‘unless and until you have a valid order requiring your reinstatement.'”
Trygstad says Kim should be allowed to continue working and collecting health insurance benefits, “at least until the Court of Appeal’s decision.”
“This case is simply to say that he has a right to employment,” Trygstad said. “Because it will probably be at least about a year before until a decision is made.”
Kim asked the Superior Court to reinstate him as a teacher, with lost wages and benefits.