Suspended Newburgh teacher, whistleblower issued 14 disciplinary charges for allegedly having children on his lap

The Horizons-on-Hudson elementary teacher, Richard Desiderio, gave News 12 copies of the charges.

Blaise Gomez

Sep 15, 2023, 5:30 PM

Updated 312 days ago

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News 12 has learned that a suspended Newburgh teacher and whistleblower who says he’s being retaliated against by the district is facing 14 disciplinary charges for allegedly having several children sit on his lap while playing.
The Horizons-on-Hudson elementary teacher, Richard Desiderio, gave News 12 copies of the charges.
The documents allege four separate incidents involving four elementary students and carry several charges for each incident from 2021 to last May. Each incident, according to the district paperwork, occurred in front of other staff and students on the playground and classroom.
“Little children, kindergarteners, hug teachers without being prompted,” says Desiderio. “It happens all the time. If you’re going to investigate me for this, then investigate every other elementary teacher in the district. I have pictures of other teachers hugging kids."
Desiderio is charged with misconduct, insubordination, neglect of duty and incompetence.
The educator says this is the fourth time he’s been suspended since 2016, when he alerted authorities to an attendance and grading scandal. The evidence provided prompted an Orange County grand jury review and a 90-page report alleging “systemic failures” by the Newburgh Enlarged City School District.
Desiderio says previous workplace allegations against him were dropped after separate investigations cleared him of wrongdoing. He says altogether, he’s been written up by the district more than 50 times.
This time, he says his interactions with students are being taken out of context to unfairly fire him.
“When little kids go out for recess, it’s literally pandemonium and any teacher can tell you that. They’re jumping on each other and teachers," says Desiderio.
Only one of the disciplinary charges, count one, identifies a student allegedly involved. The charge alleges Desiderio was seen pulling a female kindergartener with the initials A.R. on his lap on or about May 5, 2023. Desiderio says only one student in his class last year had those initials and that he has since spoken to her mother.
“It’s catastrophic educational malfeasance, neglect and I think, corruption,” says Desiderio.
News 12 interviewed the woman, Aneisha Davidson, by phone on Friday. Davidson says she was never notified by the district that alleged inappropriate contact took place.
“I don’t think it’s right and they’re going about it all wrong,” says Davidson. “Whether they felt it was inappropriate or not, they should have contacted me at that time, and I still haven’t gotten a phone call yet."
Davidson says Desiderio was “wonderful” with her daughter who has special needs and is considered nonverbal and language-impaired by the district.
“To me, he was a great teacher. It seemed like he really cared. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I know how my daughter is and she does seek a lot of affection and attention, especially from male figures. She’ll force herself on you, make you hold her so she can crawl on your lap,” said Davidson.
The district says it doesn't comment on personnel matters. News 12 put in a FOIL request to the district last week for more information on the allegations against Desiderio and past incidents. A determination on that request has not yet been made.
Newburgh Board of Education President Darren Stridiron said on Tuesday before a vote to suspend Desiderio that the teacher should have whistleblower protection.
“I believe this person is covered under the whistleblower policy," said Desiderio. "I understand that some may not agree with that, and so, I am going to be voting no on this item."
Desiderio was suspended with pay in a 7-1 vote with one board member, Deb Bouley, abstaining.


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