Lillian Gomez? She’s the sadistic ass of an elementary school teacher who decided that the way to get autistic children to stop putting things in their mouths was to lace crayons and Play-Doh with hot sauce. That’ll teach the little brats, right? Curiously enough, her employers, let alone the parents of the kids in her classroom, were not impressed. The Osceola County School District fired her. (Ya think?)
This January, you, Gentle Readers, elected Ms. Gomez as the recipient of the 2nd Annual Curmie Award, awarded to the person or institution most embarrassing to the profession of education.
Well, naturally, she sued, because the fact that no rational human being would think she had a case ought not to be a deterrent. She had in fact done so when I first wrote about the case, even getting some idiot judge to agree with her; at the time I complimented the school’s administration that it had “stood up on its hind legs and said ‘no’” to the absurd recommendation (not directive) that Gomez be re-hired.
Gomez persisted, and… won her case! Yes, really. The behavior that you, my beloved Curmiphiles, deemed the most embarrassing to the entire profession in calendar year 2012 was determined by not one but unanimously by three members of the Florida Fifth Circuit Count of Appeals to have been “not so egregious such that loss of effectiveness could be decided as a matter of law.” Parent Jose Holguin wonders, “What else can she do to prove to the system that she doesn't have it?” Good question, sir, although I’d be a little more direct: I’m sorry, but HOW FUCKING EGREGIOUS DOES HER BEHAVIOR HAVE TO BE?
Here’s the thing. Whereas Gomez denies the charge, made by a teaching assistant in the room (!), that she actively forced the hot-sauce-marinated materials into a child’s mouth, “she did admit to ‘massaging’ some of the sauce into black Play-doh” and putting them in a plastic bag with a student’s name on it. A CNN report, picked up by The Raw Story, says that the parents of the affected student claim that because of his condition, he would not have been able to tell Gomez to stop, and that he would later suffer panic attacks if he saw crayons.
And now Gomez will not only have to be re-hired, she is apparently going back into a classroom with special needs kids. Apparently there were no convicted sex offenders available for the court to put there. Frankly, about the only good news associated with this case is that, unlike the Vatican’s long-time strategy of shuffling pedophile priests from parish to parish, this moronic court decision is at least public. Parents of her prospective students will at least know her name and face. I guess that’s some small solace.
It was probably a mistake to hire Gomez to begin with (it’s obvious now; it may not have been at the time), but for all Curmie’s well-documented antipathy for public school administrators, I’ve got to tip my cap to the folks in Osceola County: they did everything right as soon as they rightly perceived that there was a problem. Well, they did one thing wrong: they live in a place where the members of the appeals court got their law degrees from a Cracker Jack box.
That, after all, is where the problem is. When I announced the winner of the 2012 Curmie, I noted that “I detest ‘teachers’ like Gomez and [Curmie runner-up and fellow abusive teacher John] Rosi, and I respect the decision of the voters who put them at the top of the list of Curmie candidates. Still, they are aberrations, and no objective observer would think otherwise. They shock us because they are so palpably outside the mainstream.” Gomez is a monster. Any rational person would recognize that not only her actions, but her apparent lack of recognition that she had done anything wrong, render her unfit for any classroom duties, especially with special-needs kids.
But her lawyer, one Thomas Egan, is the sort of whorish advocate who makes lawyer jokes necessary. [Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb? A: Three—one to turn the bulb, one to shake him off the ladder, and the third to sue the ladder company.] He opines that “I think she made a bad judgment in the way she went about it, but her purpose was good.” I’m saying this once. Her “purpose” doesn’t matter. She either knew, or should have known as a professional responsibility, that there are other methods of achieving the results she claims to have wanted. That makes her either a psychopath or an incompetent. Either way, she shouldn’t be in the same zip code as a defenseless 7-year-old. And you, Tommy, can’t fall back on a client’s right to representation. That’s true in criminal cases, not here. You are despicable. There is no ethical reason to take this case. In a just universe, you’ll end up as a laboratory animal. After all, there are some things we can’t expect rats to do.
The real culprits here, however, are the trio of idiots who adjudicated this case. Gomez is amoral, and may not know any better. Egan would have to evolve ethically to be a snake-oil salesman, but without external valorization, he’s harmless enough. Which means this entire affair is laid at the doorstep of the justices who decided that gross incompetence, bullying, petulance and sadism aren’t grounds for dismissal of a special ed teacher unless she was punishing the kid with her malfeasance. It just wouldn’t be… you know… egregious.
I was impressed by how carefully all the news reports avoided mentioning the judges by name. Several articles suggested that it was a single judge who decided. In the age of the internet, however, the official document is only a couple of mouse-clicks away. The Hall of Shame, then, consists of: Chief Judge Vincent G. Torpy, Jr. and Judges Thomas D. Sawaya and Jay P. Cohen. They have contributed more to the destruction of American education than anyone this side of Michelle Rhee or Geoffrey Canada. Such dedication should not go unrewarded. I therefore confer upon them a Special Curmie Award, Judicial Asshat Division.