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Student Turns to Art Teacher for Comfort During a Crisis

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

A Long Island art teacher’s judgment recently came under fire for her proactive decision to help a student in need. Janice Graf, a veteran art teacher for the Center Moriches High School, became dismayed upon noticing senior student Maddy Zaminski having a difficult time during class. In fact, Zaminski was physically weeping and looked unable to cope with the loss of not one, but two friends in the same week.

Graf was quoted as saying, “She needed someone to talk to. She was very distraught. I felt that she was crisis.”

In a bold attempt to comfort Zaminski, Graf contacted her father for permission to take her off-campus to get hot cocoa at a nearby store. Zaminski’s father agreed to the idea and his daughter was taken directly back to school after the brief fieldtrip. Yet the Center Moriches High School has rules forbidding teachers from removing students from the campus during school hours, thereby landing Graf in hot water.

As punishment, the school board ordered that Graf leave her classroom and be placed on administrative duty. With the help of attorney Vess Mitev, Graf is challenging the decision in hopes of being reinstated to her beloved art teaching post.

For her part, Zaminski remains steadfast in her support of Graf. In a statement made to ABC News station WABC, Zaminski explains, “My whole life, as well as other students’, we’ve been told to trust your teachers and go to them when you need help and that’s exactly what I did.”

Although Graf expressed shock and awe at the school board’s handling on the incident, her biggest concern is getting back to her students. Graf’s penalty has come at the most inopportune, as she plans to retire at the end of the school year.

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