NJ teacher fired over sexually explicit blog
MAHWAH — A high school English teacher and senior class advisor may have kissed his $79,000 job goodbye after sharing a blog post about his first sexual encounter with a man.
Dennis Q. Miguel also engaged in other “acts of unbecoming conduct,” according to an arbitrator’s November decision that supports the district terminating him.
Miguel was suspended with pay in March and then placed on unpaid leave in April as the district filed 12 tenure charges against him. He was hired by the district in 2006 and became a teacher at the high school in 2009.
School officials said that in April 2017 he texted his supervisor a link to his blog, which included sexually explicit writings and pornography.
“Ok, so I feel like you won’t narc on me, so I am presenting a gift to you,” he said in the text to the supervisor, according to the 28-page arbitration decision released by the Department of Education.
One of the posts describes his first encounter with a man — as well as the aftermath when he had a bowel movement the next day and his fear of contracting HIV.
“The once pleasurable stretching of my sphincter felt like shards of glass ripping through my a****le,” the author said on the blog, which appears to have been taken down but remains available through internet archives. “Thankfully, the pain only lasted a few minutes then I go to wipe. F***! There was blood all over the toilet paper and in the bowl.”
A year later, a student said Miguel told him about his anus bleeding after having anal sex for the first time.
Miguel denies having the conversation with the student but said he thought he was sending the link to his supervisor as a friend. The supervisor said she was shocked and embarrassed.
“Unsolicited sexual conversations, particularly with minors, qualify as unbecoming conduct warranting dismissal,” the arbitrator's decision says.
District policy says sexually offensive speech and conduct “are wholly inappropriate to the harmonious employment relationships necessary to the operation of the school district and intolerable in a workplace to which the children of this district are exposed.”
In another incident in November 2017, a student said Miguel told the student that he had slept with a soccer coach who was visiting the school that day. Miguel denied this conversation but the arbitrator believed the student.
Drinking at a party
After the 2015-16 school year, Miguel attended a student’s graduation party and hung out with parents and students. Students reported that he appeared drunk, although he denied drinking to the point of intoxication.
The arbitrator said Miguel should have asked the principal for permission to attend the graduation party, adding that “drinking with, or in the presence of, students is a slippery slope that exposes the respondent to an allegation of having too much to drink or being intoxicated.”
In January, he took a picture of a boy and girl sitting together at a lunch table and, without their permission, shared it with the student government group-text with the caption: “Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?” The male student said he felt embarrassed. The arbitrator says this action violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act because school staff are not allowed to take pictures of students without their or their parents’ consent.
“Demeaning students is not appropriate conduct for a teacher. In short, [Miguel] showed a lack of sensitivity for students’ feelings and a lack of understanding of societal norms and boundaries, especially for a professional educator who interacts with minors.”
In February, Miguel texted the student government group a “sexually suggestive picture of a man lying down with this shirt off and his lower half covered with a blanket,” according to the tenure charges. He said it was a mistake. But the arbitrator said Miguel should have admitted his mistake to the principal right away. Instead, administrators learned of this from one of the students’ mothers.
In March, he goaded class officers to walk out of school to protest Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, even though school officials, worried about security, had asked students to gather in the auditorium instead, the arbitrator said.
His text messages seem to humiliate the class officer, who tells Miguel that he is feeling anxious about disobeying the principal.
“If you really cared so much about this cause you would walk out regardless of consequence. But you are afraid of that but choose to blame administration or whoever before admitting to that,” he texted the student, according to the arbitration decision.
In his defense, Miguel argued that he was guiding students, not directing them. But the arbitrator found this to be insubordination as well as a violation of district policy against teachers text-messaging students without a principal’s permission and with an educational purpose.
Miguel said termination was unwarranted because he had an unblemished record until the last school year. But the arbitrator says he admitted to several of the tenure charges “but offered no apology for repeated and numerous instances of inappropriate behavior or other misconduct.”