Fired CPS Teacher Says Personal Memoir Cost Him His Job
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CHICAGO (CBS) — A former Chicago Public Schools teacher has sued the district, claiming his right to free speech was violated when he was fired following a flap over his personal memoirs.
As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, Luis Aguilera wants his job back and $300,000 in damages.
Aguilera’s autobiographical novel, Gabriel’s Fire, is a coming of age story about his teenage years in the McKinley Park neighborhood.
He described it as a story about “the experience of how a family, under socioeconomic pressures, gets destroyed.”
After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1995, Aguilera wrote about being beaten up by gangs and his encounters with a female instructor.
“I had a relationship with a female teacher when she was 26 years old and I was 13 years old,” he said.
Aguilera said he wrote about the affair in his book, but “very briefly and it’s very superficial.”
Tt’s almost written like a puppy love note, but Aguilera claims the book led to his own firing from Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, for unspecified misconduct.
A parent took issue with a copy of the book in the school’s library and began to wonder about her own daughter’s conversations with Aguilera.
Asked what he makes of the claims that he also had an inappropriate relationship with students, Aguilera said, “I think that’s outrageous. … because they’re unsubstantiated. There’s nothing there.”
His attorney, Deidre Baumann, said, “Here, we’re talking about a book written before he became a teacher. It was not part of his classroom instruction. It was not discussed with any of the students or anything like that.”
Aguilera and Baumann have filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Public Schools, claiming CPS probes found no proof of misconduct and that the Spanish teacher was dismissed purely for what he wrote.
“It is about the Board of Education using someone’s expression, someone’s First Amendment speech to retaliate against them,” Baumann said.
“It depends on the reader what is controversial,” Aguilera said.
CPS officials said they have yet to receive the lawsuit from the city’s Law Department and the district has no comment at this time.
Aguilera said he was also granted unemployment following his dismissal, after investigators found no proof of misconduct or substandard performance in the classroom.