MULLICA TOWNSHIP — Residents and teachers in this rural community are rallying around a veteran teacher who may lose her job after she found two of her kindergarten students naked in her classroom bathroom and promptly reported it to a principal.

Superintendent Brenda Harring-Marro has filed tenure charges against the teacher, Kelly Mascio, of Mullica Township, said Mullica Township Education Association President Barbara Rheault.

“Our main concern is that the administration has completely forgone all traditional disciplinary avenues available in handling the incident,” said Rheault, who is also a township committeewoman. “The administration has selected a disciplinary route that has resulted in enormous emotional and professional turmoil, and has strained the confidence and trust of school staff, parents and community members.”

Mascio, who has been teaching for more than 15 years and has children in Mullica Township schools, has been suspended with pay since a Sept. 30 incident in her classroom. According to a police report, two 5-year-olds — a boy and girl — went into the in-classroom bathroom together. Mascio found them naked in the restroom, and they told her they were “having sex,” according to the report.

Mascio immediately reported the incident to Principal Matthew Mazzoni, who in turn advised the Police Department and the state Department of Youth and Family Services, according to the police report. Mascio was immediately suspended.

The police closed the case, finding no reason to pursue criminal charges, according to the report.

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The Board of Education met Wednesday night in executive session to determine whether to certify the charges, which would bring the issue before a state arbitrator to decide if Mascio can be fired.

About 200 people came out in Mascio’s support, but the board refused to tell the public whether it had certified the complaint, Rheault said.

She added that Sept. 30 was a highly unusual day, and children were moving in and out of Mascio’s classroom for MAPS benchmark testing.

Mascio declined comment, as did Board of Education Solicitor Will Donio.

Carol Kienzle, of Egg Harbor City, said her nephew’s children had Mascio as a second-grade teacher, and this was Mascio’s first year teaching kindergarten. Kienzle said Mascio is a much beloved teacher and has the support of many parents in the community.

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