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Apr 20, 2011 1:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor School Board Suspends Teacher For Endangering Student

Apr 20, 2011 1:45 PM

The Eastport South Manor School Board has suspended a teacher indefinitely, with pay, and are seeking his termination after multiple accusations were leveled against him, including conduct unbecoming of a teacher and endangering the welfare of a student.

While school officials declined to identify the teacher, citing the suspension as a personnel matter, three sources within the district have confirmed that he is Felipe O. Argueta, a Spanish language teacher and the high school’s varsity boys soccer head coach. He must now attend a hearing before a panel made up of members of the School Board to determine if he will be terminated. Officials said it could take between two and six months before the hearing is held, which he is entitled to because he is tenured.

Superintendent of Schools Mark A. Nocero brought the four New York State Education Law charges against Mr. Argueta at a board meeting on Wednesday, April 13. The charges include conduct unbecoming of a teacher, insubordination, neglect of duty and endangering the welfare of a student. No criminal charges have been filed. The superintendent and School Board are seeking to fire Mr. Argueta, according to a copy of the resolution that approved the suspension—though the document does not name the teacher.

Messages left for Mr. Argueta on his cell and home phones were not immediately returned.

Sources said the charges resulted from Mr. Argueta’s dealings with one of his Spanish class students and that the incident in question took place at some point during the current school year. No details were available as to the nature of the complaints.

No police reports were filed with the Suffolk County Police Department’s 7th Precinct on the matter as of Tuesday, April 19. A Freedom of Information Act request filed with the police department went unanswered as of Wednesday. Public information officers for the department declined to comment on the matter but confirmed that officers were at the Manorville school on Friday, although they would not specify what they were doing at the campus. The school houses students in grades seven through 12.

School Board President Vincent Sweeney confirmed on Wednesday that the teacher was informed of the multiple charges.

“We have an obligation to protect the school community,” Mr. Sweeney said. He declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing the issue as a personnel matter.

Mr. Argueta was hired by the district in 2002 and awarded tenure as a foreign language teacher in 2005, the same year the Eastport and South Manor school districts merged.

As part of the State Education Law proceedings, Mr. Argueta will have the opportunity to defend himself during a teacher tenure hearing in the district. According to New York State Education Department spokeswoman Jane Briggs, the proceedings will take place behind closed doors at the high school. Until a decision is reached, Mr. Argueta is suspended from teaching in the district.

Under the terms of the hearing, Mr. Argueta will have the option of having a hearing officer review the charges and make recommendations as to penalty or punishment, which the School Board would be required to implement.

According to federal court documents, Mr. Argueta filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2009 in the U.S. District Court Eastern District in Central Islip against the school district, Mr. Nocero and Amy S. Agnesini, the district’s former director of physical education and athletics, claiming he was discriminated against because he was Guatemalan.

Court documents secured by The Press outline a complaint in which Mr. Argueta claims he suffered emotional distress and mental anguish as a result of a negative performance evaluation from Ms. Agnesini, which charged that he was not able to best coach his players because he would often give them directions in Spanish. Ms. Agnesini’s evaluation read that “using Spanish language with players was problematic and could be divisive,” according to court documents. Mr. Argueta was stripped of his coach’s position as a result of the evaluation.

The Spanish teacher sued the district and administrators for “an amount to be determined by a jury” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was reinstated to his position in June 2009, according to court documents. The lawsuit was closed in November 2010, but court documentation falls short of explaining if a settlement was reached.

Mr. Nocero declined to comment on the litigation.

The School Board will next meet on Wednesday, May 4, at the high school in Manorville. It is unclear if additional details on the matter will be divulged at that time.

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How dare those racists suggest a teacher giving his students instructions in Spanish is inappropriate. I hope he wins tens of millions of dollars to show those evil Anglo's just who is in charge here.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Apr 22, 11 3:03 PM
Schools hide this information all the time. Ask district officials how many teachers have been in the "dungeon" this year already. There was even an administrator there a few months ago but now back on the job. Most districts just push a teacher over to another school. There have been many situations and the teacher is just transferred, making other teachers move for them to fit in. Manorville needs their own newspaper to start investigation some of these issues and letting the public know what ...more
By esm34 (9), manorville on Apr 23, 11 1:00 PM
We have had that happen too because the school makes the person sign a resignation letter instead of trying to fire them or press charges (just like what happened to the facilities/grounds/custodial head person). When I said change schools, I meant usually they will change buildings in the same district and force good teachers to move to accommodate the "problem" teacher.
By esm34 (9), manorville on Apr 24, 11 7:43 PM
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