Saratoga school board fires teacher acquitted of inappropriate contact

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
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— The Saratoga Springs City School District has fired a former middle school math teacher accused — but subsequently acquitted in criminal court — of inappropriate contact with a female student.

The Board of Education voted at a special meeting Monday to follow the recommendation of a state hearing officer and terminate Joseph Bruno, 30, of Wilton.

Bruno, a tenured teacher, was arrested by state police in May 2012 on a charge of endangering the welfare of a 14-year-old student at Maple Avenue Middle School, where he taught.

In May 2013, however, Bruno was found not guilty of the misdemeanor charge after a jury trial in Greenfield Town Court.

Bruno wanted to return to teaching, but the school district brought four disciplinary charges against him, seeking his termination.

“The district determined after conducting an investigation that it was in the best interests of the students in the district to bring such charges against Mr. Bruno and seek his termination,” the school district said in a statement released Tuesday.

The charges against Bruno included misconduct, conduct unbecoming a teacher, immoral character and insubordination, said district Superintendent Michael Piccirillo.

The disciplinary charges were heard this fall by state Department of Education hearing officer Ira B. Lobel, and in a Nov. 20 report, he found Bruno guilty of all charges and recommended his termination.

Bruno had been on paid suspension since May 2012, as required by law, the district said. He has not taught in a district classroom since his arrest.

“We placed full faith in the state-established system of due process, and the resulting termination rewarded our faith,” Piccirillo said. “The Board of Education was steadfast in its belief that Mr. Bruno’s actions could not be tolerated. Our primary goal is to ensure the safety of our students.”

The 14-year-old student charged that Bruno engaged her in sexual conversation and touched her inappropriately in a classroom after school.

Bruno, who was a popular teacher, spoke in his own defense at Monday’s meeting, as did a number of people who support him. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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