MANHATTAN (CN) – A public schoolteacher sued the state and city after being fired for what tabloids described as an alleged “lesbian tryst” with a colleague on school grounds. The teacher says her coworker merely adjusted her clothing while she was having a diabetic episode, and denies that the janitor who reported the incident ever saw her naked in an empty classroom.
A janitor at James Madison High School claimed to have found Alini Brito and a colleague “partially undressed” in a classroom, engaging in “sexually inappropriate behavior,” according to the complaint in New York County Court.
The incident brought them “widespread negative publicity, ridicule and notoriety,” and both were fired for it, the complaint states.
Brito had worked at the school for years as a tenured Spanish teacher, ESL tutor, extracurricular advisor, and briefly as a dean. She has a master’s in Spanish literature from Brooklyn College. She says she was fired after an incomplete investigation, in which she was not allowed to see evidence that could exonerate her.
Brito claims that Superintendent Linda Waite allowed an “exculpatory” surveillance tape to be destroyed, and says the Hearing Officer Mary Crangle ignored testimony of two witnesses who supported the teachers’ account of the events.
One of the witnesses had rubbed Brito’s hands and back during a previous low-sugar episode, Brito says.
On Nov. 20, 2009, Brito says, she told her colleague Cindy Mauro that her blood sugar was getting low during a “SING” performance at the high school. She says Mauro led her to her classroom to get her some candy. (Mauro is not a party to this complaint.)
“Upon immediately entering the classroom, Brito’s knees buckled. At which point, Brito lay down off to the right but at the foot of the classroom door. Mauro assisted Brito by placing Brito’s sweater under her head and elevated her legs in a chair,” the complaint states.
During this time, Mauro called one of the witnesses, whose testimony allegedly was disregarded in the investigation, to tell her where they were and what they were doing, the complaint states.
The superintendant’s notes from the surveillance video note only that the teachers walked into the classroom, but not what they were doing inside the room, the complaint states.
“Waite also testified that she did not find that Brito and Mauro had engaged in any sexual activity, and that they were only ‘undressed,'” the complaint states.
None of the people whom Waite interviewed told her that they witnessed sexual activity, according to the complaint.
Besides the destroyed surveillance tape, the firing was based primarily on the statements of a janitor who “testified that he saw another custodian open the door and that he was standing approximately fifteen feet away and saw a partially naked body on the floor in the dark classroom,” Brito claims.
Brito wants the hearing officer’s reversed as arbitrary and capricious.
She is represented by Michael A. Valentine.
Police departments around the nation have been sued repeatedly for incidents in which officers mistake diabetics suffering from low blood sugar for drunks, and assault them.