The lawyer for Gary D. Luff, a Lockport High School social studies teacher since 1970, is seeking the dismissal of potentially career-ending charges against Luff on the grounds that the school district intentionally erased tape-recorded evidence.
Luff is accused of what the School Board called "conduct unbecoming a teacher" for allegedly making suggestive remarks to female students in his ninth grade classes over the past three years, and of touching a couple of them on the hands, neck, and hair.
The district is seeking Luff's firing in a closed-door disciplinary hearing. It has been on hold since its third session June 30. Scheduled sessions July 10 and 17 were canceled because of the lawsuit.
Hearing officer Mona Miller of Rochester scrubbed the next date, Aug. 5, because she had a schedule conflict. The next date is Aug. 6, pending a possible decision by State Supreme Court Justice Eugene M. Fahey.
In written court arguments, Luff's attorney, Paul J. Cambria Jr., said Luff's right of due process was violated when the district erased audio tapes of interviews with his student accusers.
Cambria sought copies of the tapes or verbatim transcripts as part of the prehearing discovery process, but was told the tapes had been erased. He was supplied with documents that he said turned out to be only summaries of the interviews, not verbatim transcripts.
As a result, Cambria wrote in his petition to Fahey, "(Luff) is left with only self-serving recollections of his accusers. . . . To allow the district to proceed with its case after such total disregard for (Luff's) rights would amount to a complete evisceration of the protection offered by (state Education Law)."
Cambria asked Fahey either to dismiss the charges or bar the students whose interviews were erased from testifying at the hearing.Only school counselors and administrators have testified so far.