Queens teacher cleared to return to school after reporting suspected misconduct

A longtime teacher at a large school in Queens was still working on campus even after investigators recommended he be fired for alleged sex with a former student, according to a report obtained by THE CITY.

The special commissioner of inquiries, an independent observer of the city’s schools, claimed that Townsend Harris High School English teacher Joseph Canzoneri had engaged in numerous inappropriate acts with female students – “flirtatious text messages” To sex with a young woman soon after graduating.

The teacher’s alleged misconduct dated back to at least 2013, although the first complaint was not received until 2018, according to the report, which was released on May 31, 2019.

Canzoneri was taken out of school during the SCI investigation, but returned last September after being cleared in a lawsuit known as the 3020-a proceeding, which is required by state law to titular educators.

He was not allowed to teach or work with students, an official said.

Canzoneri was showing up at the school building for work until early this week, when THE CITY requested his status. He was reassigned to a position in a DOE office, according to Katie O’Hanlon, spokesperson for the education department.

“There is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our students,” O’Hanlon wrote in a statement. “This employee was not allowed to set foot in a classroom after these deeply troubling allegations came to light, and is not working with any student or in any classroom.”

Canzoneri was initially hired in 1992 and resigned in 2001, according to the ministry. He then returned to work in 2003 in Townsend Harris where he remained until the start of the misconduct investigation. Payroll data from the nonprofit Empire Center shows he made more than $ 135,000 in 2020.

A “disturbing model”

Contacted by email and phone, Canzoneri declined to comment. He also refused to speak to SCI investigators, citing his status as a full teacher, according to the report.

Canzoneri “demonstrated a consistent and disturbing pattern of inappropriate behavior with female students that escalated through texting and social media contact, after-school activities and light physical contact,” the report said.

He invited students to his home for a poolside party, according to the report, and was allegedly seen “inappropriately looking at female students.”

An extract from the report of the Special Commissioner of Inquiry
Obtained by THE CITY

Canzoneri gave a former student marijuana and wine before having sex with her at a colleague’s apartment in 2015, shortly after graduation, according to the report. He then met the young woman in a park in Queens to engage in other sexual activities, he added.

“Canzoneri’s actions with these students indicate a pattern of ‘grooming’ resulting in sexual contact that threatens the well-being of these students and others at [Townsend Harris]“, Concluded the investigators. They recommended that he be fired.

Protect future students

The former student eventually spoke to investigators to protect her younger sister, who had recently been accepted into the school, according to the report.

Although the investigation was not made public, some parents and other members of the school community were aware of the investigation – and were alarmed that it had returned to the school building.

“It is shocking that it has taken so long for the Department of Education to act to remove this dangerous teacher,” said MP Nily Rozic (D-Queens), a former who also represents the neighborhood in which is located school, in a press release.

“The safety of our students must always be at the forefront,” she added.

A parent at the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was disturbing that Canzoneri was reinstated in the building after the SCI report.

“In the DOE system, no one represents the children,” the parent said.

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