DENVER (CN) – A student teacher who was fired for allegedly masturbating in the school parking lot does not have a civil case, the 10th Circuit ruled Wednesday.
Carlos Bassatt says the events transpired on Sept. 14, 2007, just a few weeks into his student-teacher position at West High School in Denver’s School District 1.
As described in the complaint, Bassatt, a decorated Army veteran, had gone to his car at about 2:30 p.m. in the middle of a school assembly where a speaker had been making disparaging remarks about the military.
Bassatt says he was simply sitting in the car with the seat reclined, waiting for his wife who was still at the assembly, when another school district employee pulled into the parking-lot space next to his.
This woman stayed in the lot for just a few seconds before abruptly driving away, according to the complaint. Bassatt says she had called a colleague to report that she had seen a man masturbating in his car. A Denver police officer on duty at the school that day went to the parking lot, but the car was already gone, according to the complaint.
Security footage allegedly confirmed that Bassatt was in the car that the woman had reported, and the school principal put Bassatt on leave pending an investigation.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute, but the district fired Bassatt before the month was out.
Bassatt’s federal complaint against the district and principal Patrick Sanchez alleged that his termination was racially motivated, saying that the “accuser’s description of the perpetrator as a Hispanic male in a white tank top amounted to racial profiling.”
On New Year’s Eve, the 10th Circuit affirmed an award of summary judgment against Bassatt.
“It is clear to us that the district provided a non-discriminatory reason for terminating Bassatt – his alleged misconduct in the parking lot,” Judge Gregory Phillips wrote for a three-judge panel.
Also fatal to Bassatt’s discrimination claim is the fact that the principal who fired Bassatt is also Latino, and does advocacy work for Latinos in education, according to the ruling.
“The relevant inquiry is whether Sanchez subjectively, but honestly, believed that Bassatt had engaged in the misconduct,” Phillips wrote. “As the principal, he had to weigh numerous competing interests, including the safety of his students.”
The ruling notes that Bassatt died in 2012 at the age of roughly 50. His estate, through his son Carlos Bassatt Jr., took up the appeal.
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