CENTER MORICHES, N.Y. – A veteran New York art teacher has been “put out to pasture” for taking a troubled student out for hot cocoa during school hours without the district’s permission.
Center Moriches High School art teacher Janice Graf couldn’t turn away student Maddy Ziminski when the 18-year-old poured out her heart over the recent loss of two friends, Pix 11 reports.
“I couldn’t stop crying,” Ziminski told the news site. “It was a really tough month, something included in that was I lost two people really close to me.”
“My whole life as well as other students, have been told to trust your teachers and go to them when you need help and that’s exactly what I did,” she said.
Graf reportedly gained permission from Ziminski’s parents to take the girl to a local 7-Eleven to chat over a cup of hot chocolate, providing the relief the girl needed to continue her school day after they returned from the short trip.
“I’m fine with it,” Ziminiski’s mother, Joanne Ziminski, told ABC 7. “She got my daughter back to school and she took care of my daughter.”
“She took her to 7-Eleven to have a cup of hot cocoa and she took her back to school and got her back to class,” she told News 12.
“She was able to come back to school after that and go back and finish the rest of her day and finish her classes and she never missed another class,” Graff told Pix 11.
But district officials apparently took issue with the off-campus jaunt, an alleged violation of district rules, and pulled Graf from the classroom. The 30-year educator is now on administrative desk duty as district officials mull her fate just a few months before she’s set to retire in July, News 12 reports.
“She’s been put out to pasture by the board of education and we’re here today to ask them, humbly and kindly, to please let her back in,” Vess Mitey, attorney for Ziminski, told the school board members at a meeting Wednesday that drew students and parents outraged by the teacher’s treatment.
“She’s been deprived the ability to teach her students,” she said at a Thursday press conference. “She’s been reassigned and basically put in a rubber room and to a teacher who’s dedicated her entire life to this – it is an indignity that should not be suffered.”
School Board President Joshua Foster cited privacy laws in refusing to discuss the situation with parents or the media.
Instead, he issued a worthless prepared statement: “The board acts in the best interest of both students and staff.”
Parents, taxpayers and former Center Moriches students sounded off about Graf’s suspension online.
“She’s a very dedicated teacher,” Jessica Caracappa posted to Facebook, “I think the district is wrong in this instance!”
“Extenuating circumstances demand a good teacher’s attention,” Joe Miller posted. “She saw a child’s need and helped! I don’t recommend this every day, but she did her job.”
“That was great, suppose (the) teen took her life,” Deborah Irene Franco added, “they would have said, did you see a sign?”
“I graduated from Center Moriches. It’s a small town with a small school. Mrs. Graff was my teacher back in 10th and 11thj grade for both studio art and ceramics class,” Joe Loguercio posted to 75 “Likes.”
“She was an awesome teacher and just an awesome person in general,” he wrote. “She ran so many clubs including Rotary Club and did a lot for Relay for Life. He’s loved by many people in this community and would never do anything to harm anyone.”
“Give the lady a break,” Jo Jane posted. “Power hungry people have no business being on the board and deciding matters when they don’t even have common sense.”
“Well said, Jo Jane, I agree 100 percent,” Mateo El Mateo replied.
“I so agree!” Sandra Gillies Unger added. “Why this was taken to this level is beyond me!”