Center Moriches teacher removed from classroom after taking grieving student out for hot cocoa

Thursday, February 11, 2016
Teacher removed from classroom after taking grieving student out for cocoa
Rob Nelson has the story of a Long Island teacher in trouble for going out of her way to help a student.

CENTER MORICHES, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island teacher is in trouble for going out of her way to help a student.

It was meant to be nothing more than an act of compassion by a teacher to help out a young student going through a double dose of grief.

"She needed someone to talk to. She was very distraught. I felt that she was in crisis," said Janice Graf, a Central Moriches High School Teacher.

But for Janice, an art teacher, it was an act that led to her removal from the classroom.

"I just want to be back with the kids, I want to be back in the classroom," Graf said.

Graf was trying to comfort Senior Maddy Zaminski a few weeks ago as Maddy coped with the recent death of two friends in the span of just a week.

So, the teacher decided to take Maddy, who was sobbing, to a nearby store for some hot cocoa and then brought her back to campus.

"My whole life, as well as other students', we've been told to trust your teachers and go to them when you need help and that's exactly what I did," Maddy said.

"I'm fine with it. She got my daughter back to school and she took care of my daughter," said Joanne Zaminski, Maddy's mother.

But the short trip was apparently a violation of school rules about not taking students off campus during school hours.

Graf has since been reassigned to administrative duty, but students and parents rallied behind her at school board meeting Wednesday night.

"She's been put out to pasture by the board of education and we're here today to ask them, humbly and kindly, to please let her back in," said Vess Mitey, Maddy's attorney.

School Board President Joshua Foster said he could not comment on the details because of privacy laws, but said in a statement, "The board acts in the best interest of both students and staff."

Two other interesting details, Maddy's father apparently had given her permission to leave campus with her teacher. And, after 30-years in the system, this whole controversy is happening just five months before Graf is set to retire.