Teachers Can Be Fired Over Cruising For Sex On Craigslist: Court

Frank Lampedusa in November 2008 was ousted as a tenured teacher the dean of students at Farb Middle School in San Diego when administrators learned of a Craigslist ad he posted in the men-for-men section. He’s been battling his termination in court ever since and even won the last round before the Commission on Professional Competence. But the Fourth District Court of Appeal this week overturned the decision and decided Lampedusa’s firing was completely kosher, because men who cruise for sex online clearly prove they are “unfit” to teach children.

Lampedusa, who was hired by the San Diego Unified School District in 1999, did not post his name or affiliation with the school on his Craigslist ads, which he acknowledged to the commission he had placed four or five times. The ads did feature photos of his stomach, butt, penis, torso — and yes, his face. (There were also “graphic descriptions” of the type of sex he liked.) I’m guessing it was that face photo that got him caught: In June 2008 a San Diego police dispatcher received an anonymous call from a man who said a friend had told him Farb Middle School’s dean was cruising Craiglist. (Don’t guys cruising Craigslist, who have something to lose, know to only send face pics in private emails, if at all?) A district supervisor, reports KSWB-TV, asked Lampedusa to pull the ads, which he did, but by November Lampedusa was served with a termination notice by the school.

His defense in all of this is that merely by posting M4M sex ads online, he is not unfit for his teaching job — even if his own students could possibly happen upon the listings. The school disagreed. The competence omission did not. But the Fourth Circuit Court did, and for now it’s that ruling that sticks. The court writes:

The Commission erred in finding there was “no evidence of aggravating circumstances surrounding [Lampedusa’s] conduct.” This finding ignores the fact Lampedusa posted graphic, pornographic photos, and obscene written material, on a Web site open to the public. Lampedusa admitted that he had posted similar ads in the past and did not believe he had done anything immoral. Moreover, rather than taking complete responsibility for his conduct, he shifted responsibility to parents and students to not access his site.

Further, while it is true that he promptly removed the ad after being directed to do so, it does not mitigate his conduct that would have likely continued had a parent not viewed and complained about the ad. This factor also does not support the Commission’s decision.

[…] While Lampedusa’s conduct may not have been blameworthy in the sense he was seeking a date, it was extremely blameworthy in the pornographic, obscene manner that he did so. This factor also does not support the Commission’s decision.

[…] A teacher may also be dismissed for “[i]mmoral or unprofessional conduct.” (§ 44932, subd. (a)(1).) ” ‘The term “immoral” has been defined generally as that which is hostile to the welfare of the general public and contrary to good morals. Immorality has not been confined to sexual matters, but includes conduct inconsistent with rectitude, or indicative of corruption, indecency, depravity, dissoluteness; or as wilful, flagrant, or shameless conduct showing moral indifference to the opinions of respectable members of the community, and as an inconsiderate attitude toward good order and the public welfare.’ ” (Board of Education v. Weiland (1960) 179 Cal.App.2d 808, 811.) Moreover, the definition of immoral or unprofessional conduct must be considered in conjunction with the unique position of public school teachers, upon whom are imposed “responsibilities and limitations on freedom of action which do not exist in regard to other callings.” (Board of Trustees v. Stubblefield, supra, 16 Cal.App.3d at p. 824.)

The public posting on a Web site of pornographic photos and obscene text constitute immoral conduct in that it evidences “indecency” and “moral indifference.” Thus, the District’s decision to terminate Lampedusa was also supported on this ground.

The full ruling, which was not published in court records, here: