A Florida judge has sided with a special needs teacher who used hot sauce to stop an autistic student from eating art supplies. The judge has also recommended that the school district give the teacher her job back.
Lillian Gomez was fired from Sunrise Elementary in Kissimmee after school officials found out that she soaked jumbo crayons and Play-Doh in hot sauce for days before putting them into a bag with an autistic student’s name on it. While the school board has yet to decide whether or not she will be given her job back, Gomez will not receive back pay for the time she was out of work.
Thomas Egan, Gomez’s attorney, said she was only trying to help her student. “I think she made a bad judgment in the way she went about it,” Egan said. “But her purpose was good.” Gomez said she did not force feed the supplies to the student but simply used the hot sauce to discourage him from eating them.
The Osceola County school district spent $50,000 in attorney’s fees to try to keep Gomez from getting her job back. School officials found out about her behavior last October but didn’t fire her until February of this year.
The judge said that while Gomez’s behavior was inappropriate, the school district can’t prove that she was intentionally trying to punish the student.
Lillian Gomez isn’t the first teacher to use hot sauce as a punishment. In 2009, 50-year-old Sylvia Guadalupe Tagle was found guilty of child abuse after she allowed a special needs student to drink soda laced with hot sauce. Tagle claimed that was how she liked to drink her soda because it was part of her Mexican culture, but prosecutors disagreed and ruled it abuse.
What do you think of the judge’s decision?