About 160 school staffers showed up for a North Shore school district board meeting Thursday night to reiterate their call for the immediate reinstatement of a gym teacher who will not be prosecuted on accusations of sexual misconduct after one accuser recanted and two other students refused to cooperate.
Bruce Fichtman, president of the union representing 380 teachers, teacher assistants and secretaries, said his members are pressing board members to allow Aaron Kozlowski, 31, to return immediately to teaching and coaching at North Shore Middle School. He has been on paid leave since March.
About 300 members signed a petition urging Superintendent Edward Melnick and school board members to reinstate Kozlowski, given that all criminal charges against Kozlowski were dismissed by a Nassau judge on Sept. 27, including one based on accusations made by a fourth student.
"Every day that you refuse to reinstate our colleague heaps more damage on a person who has been falsely accused and publicly humiliated without cause or substance," according to a copy of petition given to the board at its Oct. 24 meeting.
Melnick and school board members declined to be interviewed for this story. However the district's spokeswoman, Deirdre Gilligan, said Melnick will decide in a week to 10 days whether to reinstate Kozlowski. Board members will then vote on his recommendation.
Gilligan said she does not know whether the board will rule at its next meeting on Nov. 21.
Kozlowski's ordeal began early this year, when the boys, ages 12 and 13, told their guidance counselor they had seen their teacher sitting in front of his computer watching pornography and fondling himself Feb. 8, allegations Kozlowski said are false.
Marc Gann of Mineola, Kozlowski's attorney, said authorities searched his client's computer at school, his laptop at home as well as his wife's laptop and did not find any pornography.
Without evidence to corroborate the boys' stories, Nassau prosecutors asked and a judge agreed to dismiss the child endangerment charges.
Kozlowski's colleagues called him an "exceptional" teacher and an "admired" coach, and said it's time the board clears his name and lets him get back to work.
"Aaron and his family have suffered enough. Let this man of outstanding character return to his classroom and begin the process of rebuilding both his life and his career," said his colleagues.