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When the scandal broke about two foreign language teachers tongue wrestling in a classroom last week, students at James Madison High School learned a lot, but it wasn’t all sex ed.
They also learned how a rumor could spread like wildfire and, if it’s spicy enough, end up on the cover of a major city tabloid whether they approve or not.
A quick read of the Facebook page “The Infamous Ms. Brito Rumor” -- a digital depot of comments, rants about French teacher Cindy Mauro, 33, of Bay Ridge and Spanish teacher Alini Brito, 29, of Queens and their moment of passion while students took part in a singing competition in the Bedford Avenue school’s auditorium -- shows that students were conflicted about the rumor going too far.
Many of the commentators blamed the scandal on the creator of the Facebook page, who in turn blamed the New York Daily News, which broke the story.
“To the Daily News: Thanks a lot a**holes for giving our great school a bad name, ruining and affecting the lives of both students and teachers, and taking this way out of proportion,” wrote the still unnamed administrator of the Facebook page. “I hope the news media is proud of itself.”
“Our purpose was just to discuss the rumor as Madison students and now its spread even outside of NYC,” the administrator continued. “Now the media has impacted their lives and has portrayed this group as ‘THE BAD GUY.’ We don’t nor ever did wish to harm anyone.”
But if loose lips sink ships, loose Internet chat can flatten mountains and, possibly in this case, ruin careers.
While the Facebook page was designed to giggle over how Mauro and Brito were suspended after a school janitor claimed to have caught them undressed and engaging in a sex act back on November 20, it soon became so popular that non-students and reporters began visiting it.
The rumors reported in “The Infamous Ms. Brito Rumor” soon became tabloid news, to the chagrin of many students.
“This group’s purpose was to destroy and ruin two lives and you have accomplished this already. Good job,” wrote student Andrew You. “Harm has already been done and your hands are covered with blood. Good job.”
Yet reporters didn’t stop at Brito and Mauro. They soon found that a third teacher, 31-year-old Allison Musacchio, may have had a relationship with a student. Investigators discovered that 200 text messages were sent between the teacher and students over the past few months.
“This page is not to blame!!!” wrote Matt Martin. “[The] media blows everything up! Especially in the Tri state area.”
“All comments like ‘media evil,’ ‘media out of hand,’ ‘media to blame,’ are WRONG,” countered commentator Trip Nesbitt. “I think this is what we call a ‘teaching moment’ (if you’ll pardon the pun) for all the kids at JMHS. Capitalism and a free press are defining characteristics of our society. If you don’t like it, move to the Middle East or Asia. If you want to live in the “free world,” accept that this is the system we have, and learn to not run your mouths about titillating gossip if you don’t want to find it repeated -- possibly world-wide.”
Department of Education (DOE) officials said that all three teachers have been suspended and reassigned to other duties within the district.
The DOE was still investigating the allegations against Brito and Mauro -- which the two teachers vehemently deny -- as this paper went to press, noted spokesperson Margie Feinberg.
The United Federation of Teachers had nothing to say about the scandal, other than noting that no charges have been filed against either teacher.
“The investigation is still underway,” a spokesperson said.
But it seems that both teachers have been tried in the court of public opinion. Students, in turn, are starting to feel bad about their plight.
A commentator noted that one of the two teachers was suffering from depression now that their alleged indiscretions have been made quite public.
“She’s too embarrassed to come to the school,” the scribe wrote.
Others just expressed their shock over what happened.
“I had Ms. Mauro as a teacher for three and a half years,” wrote Sabih Ahmadwerd. “[She was a] great teacher and great person, but when I heard this I was like...wow. Honestly it doesn’t matter what the teachers do but they must have been smoking some good sh** if they thought they could do something like that in the school and expect to get away with it.”
As this paper went to press, it seemed that the administrator had taken down the Facebook page, apparently learning a lesson that the DOE already has down pat.
“We don’t discuss rumors,” DOE spokesperson Feinberg said, when asked to comment on the Facebook page.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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