Panel Upholds Firing Of Star Lake Teacher – Report Says Healy’s “Rampage’ Inexcusable — (Watertown Daily Times)

SSRI Ed note: Teacher in withdrawal from Prozac uncharacteristically gets into an altercation after a basketball game, loses his job.
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Watertown Daily Times (NY)

August 6, 1995

Author: Martha Ellen Times Staff Writer

A state Education Department disciplinary panel has upheld last year’s decision by the Clifton-Fine Central School Board to fire one of its physical education teachers.  “We’re finally at a point where it’s over and behind us,” Board President William L. LaFrance said. “We’re pleased the panel has agreed with our findings.”

Two of the three panel members recommended that David F. Healy be fired. The third panelist felt a long-term suspension would be adequate punishment.  “The fault rests entirely on his shoulders. By his vulgar and combative behavior he has forfeited his right to continue teaching at Clifton-Fine,” the report stated.

The repercussions from a Feb. 8, 1994 basketball game between Clifton-Fine and Hermon-DeKalb have been deep.  Mr. Healy, 51, Star Lake, was timekeeper at the game but became distressed over calls made by the referees in the close game. He needled officials, ran into the bleachers to argue with spectators, and challenged one to a fight.

Mr. Healy was found innocent of disorderly conduct in Canton village court regarding his behavior at the game.  A Canton jury earlier found Mr. Healy innocent of making a harassing telephone call related to the game after his son, Paul, admitted on the stand he made the call. At the time, Paul Healy was the Clifton-Fine basketball coach.   After the game, Mr. Healy got into a fight with former Superintendent Donald H. Belcer during which he punched him and kicked him in the backside. Canton Judge Michael C. Crowe found Mr. Healy guilty of harassing Mr. Belcer.

The hearing panel made its own judgments of Mr. Healy’s behavior.   “There is no question that the Respondent (Mr. Healy) had a very bad day, and that his conduct far exceeded the limits of acceptable behavior for teachers and most other civilized human beings,” the report said.  Mr. Healy’s defense to the panel was that he suffered from depression and was taking the drug Prozac. He attributed his behavior at the basketball game to his having stopped taking the controversial drug, which has been the focus of lawsuits nationwide.

The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1987 but since has come under further scrutiny. In September 1991, scientists reported there was no evidence Prozac causes suicide or violent behavior and voted against recommending label changes.

The panel’s report said they were shown no proof linking Mr. Healy’s behavior to his illness.  Mr. Healy could not be reached for comment.   The panel found his conduct unacceptable regardless of Mr. Healy’s previous satisfactory service.

“In an age when schools are plagued by antisocial behavior, the Respondent (Mr. Healy) went on a rampage, hurling obscene epithets, flouting the conventions of fair play, and pummeling the chief executive of the district. One who conducts himself in such fashion has no place in a public school,” the panel found.   It was uncertain whether New York State United Teachers, which represented Mr. Healy before the disciplinary hearing, would appeal the case.   “We have not heard,” Mr. LaFrance said.

In a related matter, the state Education Department commissioner has denied an appeal from Paul Healy that he should have been reappointed the district’s basketball coach.

Record Number:  9508060063