A popular gym teacher at PS 102 in Harlem claims he was forced out of his job because of a misunderstanding involving mouthwash and an innocent joke about his blindness. Coach Steven Sloan, 60, was born with macular degeneration and, with the help of an assistant, taught young students exercise and sports for three decades. He was reportedly very active in the school community until last October, when a parent accused him of drinking on the job. From the NY Post:
After smelling alcohol on his breath, the parent dug through a trash basket in Sloan’s office — which was near a doorway to the street — and pulled out a Styrofoam cup she claimed Sloan’s assistant was carrying. The “brown liquid” in the cup smelled of liquor. She never saw Sloan holding it but accused him of drinking.
Sloan contends any odor on his breath likely came from swishing with Original Listerine, which has 26.9 percent alcohol, after a spicy lunch.
The city Department of Education charged Sloan with drinking on the job and sexual harassment because he had asked a group of moms that day, “Anybody want to go on a blind date?” Sloan said he used the joke to put people at ease about his disability.
Sloan, who had previously made the school proud by carrying a torch at the 2006 Olympics in Italy, agreed to retire early in August in a settlement with the DOE. It's unclear why he's speaking out about the incident now, but at his hearing he insisted, "I cherish my job. Ain’t nothing for me to do but to teach physical education and work with my children. So why, after 30 years, would I risk or jeopardize that?"
A Department of Education spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update: The DOE insists Sloan did in fact consume alcohol on school property and made inappropriate statements to a parent while he was supposed to be teaching class. After Sloan agreed to irrevocably retire, the DOE agreed to drop plans for a formal hearing on the charges against him. He is no longer eligible for future employment by the DOE.