As noted in the Huffington Post:
“Mark Bringhurst was Teacher of the Year in Vineland, N.J., in 2011-12, but he has no chance of turning the honor into a winning streak.”
WTXF-TV reported that Mark Bringhurst, 41, was arrested on March 21, 2012, by Berlin Township police officers and charged with lewdness for streaking nude through the parking lot of the Greenway Village Apartments in Vineland, New Jersey.
Bringhurst, a married man with three daughters, was a fifth grade teacher at the Winslow School in Vineland for eight years, and was Teacher of the Year in 2011-12.
According to the The Daily Journal, Berlin police Sargent Gary Sheehan was dispatched to the apartment complex when a witness called the police to complain that a naked man was running through the parking lot. The witness expressed concern about the safety of children who might be in the area and that this wasn’t the first time the same man had sprinted nude through the apartment complex.
NJ.com reported that Sheehan was able to use the nude man’s license plate number to locate the car in the parking lot of The Red Barn Book Store, an adult bookstore. When asked why he was in an adult bookstore, Bringhurst stated that he stopped there because it was on his way home. The store was actually in the opposite direction of his home.
Bringhurst confessed that he had, indeed, run naked through the parking lot not once, but twice, on one other occasion the previous year. Both incidents occurred after the teacher accepted a dare from an online friend. Bringhurst insisted that he had no intention of anyone seeing him.
“At first he denied being in Greenway, but later admitted to being there and running naked through the parking lot in the nude,” read Sheehan’s investigation report. “Bringhurst stated he never meant for anyone to see him and he was sorry if someone did,” the police report read.
His original charge of “fourth-degree crime of lewdness” was amended in court on July 12th to “acting in an improper manner.”
After his arrest, the Winslow School suspended Bringhurst with pay until the tenure charges were received by the state Department of Education. He was later suspended without pay, pending arbitration. He asked for his job back, with his previous salary of $56,451-a-year, but school authorities declined his request and said that his behavior was “unbecoming of a tenured teacher.”
On August 8th, the school board voted for Bringhurst’s dismissal. Winslow School Superintendent, Mary Gruccio, stated that the district demanded Bringhurst’s dismissal because “his behavior cannot be tolerated by the Vineland public school district.”
After a hearing on October 18th, Arbitrator Robert Gifford wrote that:
Bringhurst “exercised severely poor judgment on more than one occasion. His lack of judgment is not diminished by the fact that his conduct occurred outside the school setting.” He continued by saying that the teacher’s actions “are simply not consistent with the conduct that a fifth-grade elementary school teacher must display whether in or out of the classroom.”
He was fired on December 5th, 2012.
The Press of Atlantic City and the New Jersey State Department of Education said that Bringhurst’s case was the first to be tried under the TEACHNJ tenure reform law that was created to reduce the amount of time that a tenure case should take to resolve. With TEACHNJ, signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, when a school wants to dismiss a teacher, a hearing has to be held within 45 days of a contested tenure case. Past cases often lasted for one to two years. Bringhurst’s case only took four months from the time he was charged until he was found guilty.
The arbitrator’s decision doesn’t affect Bringhurst’s teaching license. He is free to seek employment in another school district (may I suggest another city…state…country?). The state Board of Examiners will make the decision to revoke his license separately.
On their website, the apartment complex where the unfortunate incident occurred states:
Greenway Village Apartments offers a relaxing atmosphere that allows you a peaceful alternative to your hectic, daily schedule. ‘No matter how stressful your day may be, the serene surroundings of our community will show you how enjoyable it is to come home.