A Florida elementary school may not fire a teacher who soaked crayons in hot sauce and then fed them to an autistic child, a judge has ruled.
Lillian Gomez, a teacher at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee, Florida, put jumbo-sized coloring crayons in a cup with hot sauce. Days later, after the crayons were properly laced, she put them in a plastic bag with an autistic child’s name on it. The student had a tendency to eat art supplies, and this was Gomez’s method of deterring him from the behavior, according to ABC News.
The school considered her actions cruel, and fired her with little fanfare. But Gomez decided to fight her termination in court.
The school district spent $50,000 in attorney’s fees trying to get the termination to stick.
Today, an appeals court judge ruled that the district did not have grounds to fire Gomez. The teacher’s conduct was inappropriate, but not malicious enough to merit termination, said the judge.
As a result, the school district has little choice but to rehire Gomez.
The school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told ABC News that it would abide by the court’s decision.
“We lost the appeal, so by law we have to comply by the courts,” said school district spokeswoman Dana Schafer in a statement. “We don’t want to come out and say anything bad about the teacher or say anything to worry parents.”
Gomez will be placed at a different school, where she will still have access to autistic children.
The father of the child who was poisoned by Gomez said that she was a danger inside any classroom.
“What else can she do to prove to the system that she doesn’t have it?” he asked in a statement.
Gomez’s attorney maintained that though her methods were wrong, her goal was admirable.
When it comes to hot sauce-soaked crayons being fed to autistic children, it’s the thought that counts.