A basketball teacher and coach at a New Jersey high school twice took one of his players to his house after practice, school officials allege, and then rubbed so-called "blessed cream" on the teenager's back.
Now the Vineland Board of Education in New Jersey is looking for permission to fire Albert D. Porter, a tenured employee who they accused of violating the school district's "Inappropriate Staff Contact" policy, according to NJ.com. The state's Department of Education is considering the request after the board voted in favor to dismiss the former Teacher of the Year.
The alleged interactions between Porter and the student at Vineland High School came to light in January. Officials say that's when they learned Porter gave a male basketball player rides home from practice, NJ.com reported, and took the teen back to Porter's house on two different occasions.
Porter rubbed "blessed cream" on the student's bare back once they were alone at the teacher's house, according to the charge of dismissal obtained by The Daily Journal. Once they learned of the allegations, school officials say they interviewed the student, who said he didn't have a medical condition that required the application of Porter's "spiritual" ointment.
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According to The Daily Journal, the school district has a rule that “school staff shall not engage or seek to be in the presence of a pupil beyond that staff member’s professional responsibilities.” The board of education argues he violated that policy.
But Porter denied any wrongdoing in an interview with NJ.com. He said he drove the boy home with his mother's permission — and that she once said Porter was "filling the void of (the boy) not having a father." The coach explained that the boy had complained of back issues while they ate pizza at his house, so Porter brought out the ointment.
Porter, who as worked in the district for decades, also suggested the allegations came from another disgruntled coach, NJ.com wrote.
He was suspended with pay on Jan. 19. He earned $83,899 a year. But on April 19, the school board now suspended him without pay, according to The Daily Journal.
Still, Porter's lawyer argued in a statement to NJ.com that the long-time teacher was just trying to help his student in his own way.
"In addition to having medicinal purposes," the statement read, "he is of the belief that it also has a spiritual benefit."