NJ teacher keeps job after turning off classroom’s shooter drill system
SOUTH HACKENSACK — An elementary school computer teacher can't be fired for disconnecting his classroom’s emergency loudspeaker, causing him and his class to miss a bomb drill in October.
The district wanted to fire Christopher Masullo because he put students and staff at risk. School officials said Masullo disconnected the loudspeaker without permission, and then lied and tried to cover up his wrongdoing.
But a state arbitrator said terminating the 20-year teaching veteran with a stellar record would be going too far. Instead, Masullo will be suspended without pay until next school year and he will not get his scheduled raise.
Masullo eventually admitted to disconnecting the loudspeaker, which is used to announce periodic bomb and gunman threats, because it was too loud and disruptive. Classrooms in the school have a separate fire alarm.
Masullo said he was still able to hear the drills because his computer lab classroom was surrounded by the school library, which still had a loudspeaker.
The librarian, however, testified during an arbitration hearing in March that she had to tell an oblivious Masullo about drills on two previous occasions in 2015 and last year.
Masullo’s computer class of third-grade students missed the bomb drill on Oct. 19, and were found in the classroom 15 minutes later.
Arbitrator Ira Cure said Masullo committed a “reckless” and “grave offense,” but firing him would not be appropriate because he did not intentionally seek to endanger students and staff.
“His testimony demonstrates a tremendous amount of remorse, and I believe that if he is reinstated he will not engage in such reckless behavior again," Cure said in a 23-page decision released this week.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.