A pair of purple panties may not cost a Lyons Creek Middle School teacher his job after all.
Although the Broward School Board on April 9 recommended Raymond Wantroba be fired for allegedly placing a pair of women's underwear in a student's locker, a state administrative law judge said the punishment was too severe.
Claude Arrington recommended the teacher be suspended without pay for the rest of the school year and then reinstated. The judge said he was persuaded to give Wantroba leniency based on the "remorse expressed," his more than 25 years as an educator and "the isolated nature of the conduct at issue."
Neither Wantroba, who has taught at the Coconut Creek school since 2004, nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.
The district cited immorality, misconduct in office and insubordination in its recommendation to fire him. But while Arrington called Wantroba's behavior "inexcusable," he said only misconduct could be proved.
The School Board will still have the final say on reinstatement and officials haven't said what they plan to do.
On February 6, Wantroba saw a group of eighth-grade boys playing with a woman's undergarment, described as "lacy, purple panties." He took the underwear and placed it in his office, the judge wrote.
During lunch hour that day, a campus security guard was resting in the gym teacher's office when Wantroba placed the panties on the guard's leg and took a photo.
Later that day, two students who shared a locker were changing at the end of their gym class. One of the students discovered the panties stuffed into his shoe.
"When he took the panties out of his shoe, he was among between 30 and 40 classmates, many of whom laughed at him," the judge's order states.
Wantroba also laughed and asked the student if the panties were his, the judge wrote.
Later that day, the boy informed his mother, a teacher at the school, and the two reported it to an assistant principal.
Wantroba told the judge he didn't place the panties in the locker and denied teasing the boy, but "that denial is not credible," the judge wrote, saying the teacher confessed to the incident during a school district investigation.
The teacher also testified "he did not intend to hurt any student and was remorseful for his behavior," the judge wrote.
School district officials said Wantroba was suspended without pay for three days in 2012 for refusing to allow a student to use the restroom. In January, an assistant principal voiced concerns to Wantroba about a lack of adult supervision in the locker room, the judge wrote.
But the judge ruled Wantroba's conduct did not rise to the level of insubordination.
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