SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A high school teacher arrested after she returned a bag of marijuana to a student has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Oswego and its police department.
Angela M. Ferlito, a business teacher at Oswego High School, claimed her civil rights were violated when she was charged in March with a misdemeanor count of selling marijuana.
An Oswego City Court judge dismissed the charge, but the school district temporarily suspended Ferlito and she lost more than $6,000 in pay.
Ferlito, 40, said she and her family were traumatized and humiliated by the incident. She was booked and fingerprinted, and her mug shot was taken at the police station. She says she suffered significant mental anguish and embarrassment from the publicity the case received.
Under an agreement with the school, Ferlito admitted she made an error of judgment when she returned the bag of marijuana to the student who claimed it and did not immediately report the incident to school authorities. She also agreed not to talk about the case with the media.
At the time, schools Superintendent Ken Eastwood issued a statement in which he called Ferlito "a wonderful person and an excellent teacher who made a mistake."
Ferlito returned to teaching in September.
Her lawyer, Terrance J. Hoffmann, said Tuesday they decided not to sue the district because there had been a hearing and an agreement was reached between Ferlito and the district.
"But to have to suffer an arrest and accusation of a crime is a horse of a different color," Hoffmann said. He called it an "egregious example of the police overstepping their bounds" in an effort to "punish" Ferlito.
Hoffmann also said that when Ferlito returned the bag to the student, she could not be sure it contained an illegal drug, although she suspected it did.
City and police officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.