District 220 fires Barrington High teacher whose work computer contained porn

  • Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members have officially fired a teacher whose work computer was found to have pornographic images after an investigation began into accusations of poor job performance, documents show. The teacher worked at Barrington High School.

    Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members have officially fired a teacher whose work computer was found to have pornographic images after an investigation began into accusations of poor job performance, documents show. The teacher worked at Barrington High School. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 1/24/2020 6:44 PM

Barrington Area Unit District 220 board members have fired a teacher whose work computer was found to have pornographic images after an investigation began into his job performance, documents show.

Ending a case that began nearly two years ago, the District 220 board last week approved a resolution ordering the tenured teacher's dismissal for cause. The board's action came about a month after a hearing officer's finding and recommendation that the district fire the longtime Barrington High School instructor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"After a due-process hearing with the Illinois State Board of Education, the board reaffirmed a previous action taken on May 15, 2018, to terminate a staff member," District 220 board President Penny Kazmier said.

Documents show the school board pursued the mathematics teacher's dismissal partly based on in-house accusations he stored pornographic images on his district-issued laptop computer, which were found in 2018 after officials began investigating his job performance. He was suspended without pay from his roughly $126,000-a-year post, pending the final disposition of his case.

As outlined in the report by hearing officer Lisa Salkovitz Kohn, the teacher was serving as Barrington High's substitute boys gymnastics coach on March 8, 2018, when he asked a student on the team about how to back up pictures from his personal cellphone to flash drives.

Salkovitz Kohn wrote that the student responded he could transfer the images to the flash drive by using the teacher's laptop as a "middleman," then delete them from the computer.

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In an interview with an administrator, the teacher said he offered to buy movie tickets for the pupil if he completed the task before a gymnastics meet ended, documents show. However, the student didn't finish and district administrators found the porn on March 14, 2018, after taking the instructor's computer as part of the probe of his job performance.

According to Salkovitz Kohn's report, the teacher contended all he wanted was for District 220's computer to be used as an intermediary device to transfer the pictures and be erased immediately. She wrote that he maintained the student "refused to finish the job."

She said the issue -- at best -- was whether the instructor cajoled the student or -- at worst -- coerced him to manipulate the pornographic and other noninstructional files for the teacher's benefit, taking the teenager away from the gymnastics meet.

"The issue is not whether (the teacher) was misled by the student into a transfer method that got (him) into trouble for putting pornography onto a district computer," Salkovitz Kohn wrote.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While the teacher contended the student could not have seen the porn, the hearing officer found he lacked technical knowledge to provide such assurance.

Along with the teacher's receiving an "unsatisfactory" rating from the district in February 2018, documents state that administrators received audio recordings some students made while he went on "off-topic rants" in his math classroom. Officials said the recordings from the first semester in 2017-18 indicated he impeded available instructional time.

But the teacher countered the students violated district policy against using cellphones in class unless authorized by an instructor for educational purposes. He also cited a violation of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act because he never consented to the recordings and had a reasonable privacy expectation -- a defense the hearing officer rejected.

Salkovitz Kohn also dismissed the teacher's position that the district failed to meet a burden of proof in the case to fire him, and she found that he violated school board policy on district laptop use, that he wasted instructional time on "unprofessional off-topic and often angry digressions" and that he singled out and embarrassed students about their grades.

The teacher represented himself in the hearing, which covered six days spread from May to August in the Chicago office of the district's attorneys.

The teacher isn't being named by the Daily Herald because the accusations the district leveled didn't involve a criminal case.

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