A sexually explicit ad that a teacher posted on Craigslist amounted to enough evidence to show that he engaged in immoral conduct and was unfit to serve as a teacher, the Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, ruled April 4 (San Diego Unified School District v. Frank Lampedusa).
Upholding the decision of the San Diego Unified School District to fire teacher Frank Lampedusa for posting the ad in Craigslist’s “men seeking men” section, the court agreed that the posting of sexually explicit photos and text—even where the only identifying information was a photo of the teacher’s face—constituted immoral conduct.
The case started in June of 2008, when an anonymous male caller, identifying himself only as a parent of a student at Jean Farb Middle School, where Lampedusa served as Dean of Students, alerted a police dispatcher to the presence of a Craigslist posting. The parent stated “that he had received a call from a friend, also anonymous, telling him that the Dean of Students at his child’s school” had posted the listing. Following the caller’s directions, the dispatcher found the listing, which included several lines of sexually explicit text detailing Lampedusa’s sexual preferences, as well as several explicit photos of his body.
Eventually, Lampedusa was notified that the post had been discovered and, when it was suggested to him that it be removed, he did so. In July 2008, the school district notified Lampedusa that it intended to fire him; Lampedusa then requested a hearing before the Commission on Professional Competence.
The Commission, presented with the pictures and text from the ad, castigated Lampedusa, saying that the ad “was vulgar and inappropriate and demonstrated a serious lapse in good judgment.” However, the Commission stopped short of punishing Lampedusa, explaining that the Craigslist posting neither had a connection with his employment with the District nor was evidence of immoral conduct such that he was unfit to serve as a teacher.
In making this decision, the Commission noted—inaccurately, the Court of Appeal later held—that “had any student, parent, or teacher viewed respondent’s ad, it surely would have washed over into his professional life and interfered with his ability to serve as a role model at school, …[but] that simply never happened in this case.”
The District appealed and the case made its way to the Court of Appeal, which reversed the decision of the Commission on the grounds that the evidence against Lampedusa “showed an evident unfitness to serve as a teacher.”
As justification for its ruling, the court cited several factors, the most important of which was the fact that “a parent and an educator did see the ad” (Italics in original). Quoting the Commission’s statement that the posting, if discovered by students, parents, or staff, would have interfered with Lampedusa’s ability to work at the school, the court questioned the Commission’s “inexplicable” conclusion that discovery of the post had not happened.
Discovery did happen, the court said, and it had affected Lampedusa’s ability to work at the school; not only had a parent viewed the listing and contacted the police, but the principal of the school stated, after seeing the posting, that she had lost confidence in Lampedusa’s ability to serve as a role model to students.
Cited often in the court’s decision as an aggravating factor was Lampedusa’s seeming unrepentant stance. Lampedusa testified that he believed discovery of the ad would not have an impact on his ability to serve as a role model to students, he did not believe he had done anything immoral, and he would continue to post ads for sex, although he intended to make them less “offensive.”
© 2011 Professional Licensing Report, published by ProForum, a non-profit research group, www.plrnet.org. Reprinted by permission.