NY teacher acquitted in rape of male student wants to return to work
(NY Daily News) NEW YORK – A New York teacher who was charged in 2011 with raping a male middle school student and plying him with drugs and alcohol is demanding that the city let her return to her teaching job, according to a lawsuit.
Claudia Tillery, 45, was acquitted of all criminal charges in April 2014 and argues in papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court that Department of Education’s hearing officer improperly used sealed evidence, DNA tests and the prosecutor’s testimony to remove her from her teaching job.
In 2011, the then-sixth-grade humanities teacher at Stephen Decatur School in Brooklyn was accused to having a sexual relationship with a boy from as early as 2009, when he was just 12 years old.
She was charged with rape, unlawful dealing of drugs and alcohol to a child, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse and acting in a manner injurious to a child.
Haydee Rosario, the Department of Education hearing officer said the acquittal doesn’t excuse the mother of two for ‘conduct unbecoming’ of her position, which she had held since 1996.
Rosario said that evidence showed that Tillery allowed the student into her home without permission from his parents or school administrators, according to the New York Daily News.
Tillery also reportedly took the boy to the Atlantic Motor Inn more than once and gave him $500 in cash.
In addition, Rosario said Tillery did not tell school administrators or the student’s parents that the boy had stolen her daughter’s laptop, a camera and her phone from her apartment.
‘Such failure, I find, not only constitutes conduct that is prejudicial to the good order and discipline of her service but, most importantly, sheds light about the true nature of her relationship with Student A,’ Rosario said.
The student told investigators that Tillery did not report the theft because she worried that it would reveal the sexual relationship.
Before Tillery was arrested in 2011, the boy reportedly decided to end the relationship with the teacher and come forward, sources said.
In her papers, the teacher said that it was arbitrary and capricious of the hearing officer to consider sealed evidence.
‘The hearing officer credited Student A’s testimony in its entirety… regardless of the numerous inconsistencies,’ according to the papers Tillery’s lawyer Stacey Van Malden had filed.
But Rosario said that because of the standard of proof is lower in disciplinary proceedings, prior court decisions have allowed hearing officers to consider sealed evidence after acquitted criminal charges.
‘This is not a ‘he said, she said’ case where my determination hinges on my credibility findings,’ Rosario wrote. ‘In this case, the record is replete with evidence, including the DNA analysis report that corroborates the credible account given by Student A.’
The former Bedford-Stuyvesant student testified that he and Tillery had oral sex and intercourse in her bedroom at at a hotel room she rented several times.
Though no semen was found on her bedroom comforter, one stain included remnants of vaginal fluids and salavia containing DNA from both the boy and Tillery, according to court papers.
Tillery, however, said that the student might have come into contact with the comforter when it was in her laundry room.
Rosario said the student’s testimony was ‘candid, detailed, consistent and coherent’ and is supported by other evidence, according to the New York Daily News.
She said that the student said he had taken three videos on his phone of the sexual encounters, but erased them when his older brother discovered them.
A school aide testified that she had seen the video when the student’s older brother showed it to someone in school. The aide then reported it to administrators.
Rosario also rejected Tillery’s defense in which she claimed the boy was manipulative and made her interact with him more than she needed to.
‘Her defense of ‘he made me do it’ reasoning, that Student A, a minor entrusted to her care, caused all of her misery that she endured during her criminal trial and during this disciplinary proceeding, serves to demonstrate why termination of her employment is the only appropriate penalty in this case,’ Rosario said.
At the time of the incident many students and parents said they were shocked after hearing that Tillery had been accused of raping one of her students.
Students said she was a ‘nice lady’ and that she was ‘serious’ in the classroom.
Tillery attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn, and Central State University in Ohio, according to her Facebook page in 2011.