By James Integlia
The third time is the charm they say, and after being rescheduled twice, the “Protest for Carolyn Lippolis” was held Thursday in front of Branford High School. Lippolis, a former BHS social studies teacher, was fired on November 28, 2012 following more than a year on administrative leave.
Lippolis was terminated at a Board of Education meeting after a several month investigation by a three person arbitration panel. The panel decided by a 2 to 1 vote that her contract be terminated. The panel’s report stated that she had been cited multiple times for violations including lateness to class, showing “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, an R rated movie, and failing to report grades on time.
Public support has been very divided. “The people who are against me don’t know all the facts,” said Lippolis, who sat in her car at a nearby gas station. “They only believe what they have read.”
But Lippolis has found much support among BHS students, “I chose to protest because Mrs. Lippolis has done more for me than any other teacher in my years of school,” said senior Cody Crane. “She deserves to be treated better than the way she has and I thought the protest was a representation of how wide a group of people Mrs. L has touched in her years at BHS.” “I went to support a teacher who helped me grow not only as a student, but as a person,” said Amanda Chomicz, a senior. “Her dismissal was unjustified and says a lot about the Board of Education and the bias they base their conclusions on.”
The protest, which was organized by one of Lippolis’ former students, Ryan Cosgrove, a 2012 BHS graduate, spoke about his reasons for creating the event. “The thing that inspired me to start conducting this protest was my beliefs,” said Cosgrove. “I feel justice wasn’t served for this beloved teacher and I wasn’t going to just sit there knowing this woman’s future was headed south just because of a misinterpreted scenario. I feel as if she was being targeted.”
Lippolis, who said she had no role in organizing the protest, and that she found out about it through a message sent to her on Facebook, said “I want to let people know what was wrong[with my firing] and how it was wrong, the whole way I was treated was wrong.” She was one of the administrators on a Facebook event publicizing the protest.
She also talked about her chances of being hired again as teacher. “I don’t think [the protest] hurts my chances, the key would be that’d you see a protest for other teachers that this happened to,” said Lippolis. “It makes me feel special, one of the first things I would say to my class is we are a family, they are all family and always will be family.”
About 25 to30 people showed up for the protest, many of whom were former students of Lippolis. However, current BHS students were not permitted to join the protest even if they had an open period until after school hours, which has caused controversy among current students who support Lippolis. “I can understand that because of security issues, but these are the same people who are trying to teach kids to live in the world and be their own person,” said Lippolis, “That’s the whole point of Capstone, so it’s kind of a catch.”
Superintendent Hernandez, and Mr. Panagoulias, BHS’s principal, did not respond to multiple emails sent with questions in regards to the protest and why students would not be allowed to protest during the day.