On appeal from the State Board of Education.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 28, 2007
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Messano.
Appellant, Michael Nieves, formerly a non-tenured elementary language arts teacher in Union City, appeals from the December 6, 2006 order of the New Jersey State Board of Education (Board) affirming the decision of the State Board of Examiners (Examiners) that he engaged in unbecoming conduct and ordering the revocation of his teaching certificates. We affirm.
The salient facts are not disputed. In the fall of 2002, appellant started to exchange notes with L.V., a student in one of his classes. The notes were written on Post-its during class periods. At the time, in addition to his teaching responsibilities, appellant also served as a basketball coach. The note-writing started because L.V. was interested in one of appellant's players. Appellant characterized the initial notes as "centered around that particular player and it was all very -- how could I say it -- it was -- it was in a friendly nature, jokingly, never anything serious." L.V. also agreed that initially the notes "were just fooling around."
The note-writing exchanges took place every other day for a short period of time. After the notes were exchanged, they were usually thrown away, either by appellant or L.V., after a short conversation because "[t]here was no need to keep them." Although L.V. claimed that in one note, appellant wrote, "I'll make your body tingle[,]" defendant denied writing such a note.
The note-writing exchanges between appellant and L.V. were brought to the attention of school officials by a parent of a student. The parent and student met with school officials on February 3, 2003 at 7:30 a.m. As the morning progressed, a number of students, including L.V., were questioned. School officials asked each of the students interviewed to attempt to get the notes if any were exchanged. L.V. and appellant did exchange a note later that day. L.V. gave the note to a classmate, M.A., who turned it over to the school principal. The content of the note was as follows:
[APPELLANT:] What are you doing during the week we are off from school?
[L.V.:] I don't know, why?
[APPELLANT:] It might be a good time to get together during the day without anyone knowing!
[L.V.:] I don't have plans, because my mom[']s getting operated.
[APPELLANT:] What[']s wrong?
[L.V.:] Something about ...