School time for 4th-graders is usually packed with question-and-answer sessions, but a teacher in New York City has been fired for taking her questions a little too far.
Cassendre Fiering, a 45-year-old substitute instructor at Public School 189 in Bronx, New York, was canned by the Department of Education in December for actually seeking dating advice from her young students.
Investigators say the woman, who is also a part-time actress, asked her 9-year-old pupils to help her choose between two men she was dating.
She reportedly had the students engage in role-play conversations with her about how she should talk to the gents, both of whom are in their thirties.
There were only five students in the class, and they recommended Fiering to break up with the younger of the two boyfriends because he had not returned her phone calls.
DNAinfo New York obtained a report by investigators for the office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for New York City Schools. They started the probe when students told school officials they counseled Fiering about her love life.
The report said Fiering acted out scenarios in which the kids were her and she was the boyfriends. She complained the younger suitor, a Rhode Island mechanic, didn’t return her phone messages.
The teacher is said to have called the students her “munchkins,” and they asked her to toilet paper the mechanic’s home.
According to DNAinfo, the report says Fiering hugged one student, tapped another on his shoulder and touched the thighs of two other students.
Fiering denied inappropriately touching any student, but she couldn’t remember if she had hugged one of them.
She admitted to speaking to the youngsters about her relationships, but indicated the talk was harmless and done in fun.
“The kids were saying, ‘Oh, we’re your counselor,’” Fiering told DNAinfo. “They were excited to have me listen to their advice. … They were saying all kinds of things, trying to help me because this guy was being a jerk to me.”
“It was also G-rated,” she added. “I certainly wasn’t talking about sex or anything.”
Fiering only started working for New York’s Department of Education in March 2013, but says she has worked as an educator for decades, never accused of any wrongdoing.
She says she’s appealing her firing, adamantly denying touching any of the students.
“They made it seem like I was this gross person fondling all the children,” she said.
Fiering now admits she should have kept her love life to herself, but claims her poor judgment didn’t warrant her ouster.
“I crossed the line I shouldn’t have,” she said. “[But] considering everything else, why couldn’t they say, ‘Be careful about that?’”
The woman has also apparently taken the kids’ advice, breaking off her relationships with both men.
“The younger guy was just a weird guy and I never really figured it out,” she said. “He was very strange and it upset me. He gave a lot of mixed messages. I think I just had to give up.”
As for the older of the two, Fiering said he just wasn’t her cup of tea.
“He still calls and still likes me,” she said. “He’s very sweet, but not really right for me.”