Steven Sloan was a popular and familiar figure at PS 102 in Harlem, where he taught gym for 29 years. Even though Sloan is blind, he could walk the halls of the school without his cane, because he’d been there so long he just knew the layout of the school by heart. He was a local fixture for decades, until he was forced to retire in a bizarre scandal when a parent reported smelling alcohol on his breath. To this day Sloan maintains it was just Listerine.
According to the New York Post, the 60-year-old Sloan was reported to the Department of Education last year by a parent who said she smelled alcohol on his breath when they were setting up for a fundraiser at the school. After becoming suspicious, the parent then allegedly went through Sloan’s trash and found a Styrofoam cup that she said had contained “brown liquid” and smelled like liquor. There was reportedly no evidence of actual liquor in the cup, or any evidence that Sloan had ever had the cup.
That does not really sound like enough to fire a person over, considering that the parent never saw Sloan with the cup, and did not even have any evidence that the cup contained liquor.
At a hearing, Sloan said that what the parent smelled on his breath must have been Listerine. Sloan reportedly used Listerine–the brown one–every day after lunch. He says he never drank at work.
“I cherish my job,” he reportedly said at the hearing, according to the Post. “Ain’t nothing for me to do but to teach physical education and work with my children. So why, after 30 years, would I risk or jeopardize that?”
Sloan’s colleagues are reportedly furious, and several came to his defense to speak of his dedication to his students, his willingness to help with after-school programs and trips, and his quirky obsession with personal hygiene, which included a habit of using Listerine regularly.
Still, Sloan was charged with drinking on the job, which he says he did not do. Sloan wanted to keep his job, but agreed to retire.
“They didn’t even let me go back to my school and say goodbye,” he said. “I just want to let everybody know I did my job diligently, with all my heart and soul.”
Sloan’s story sounds like a ridiculous and unfair end to an amazing career. Sloan even carried the Olympic Torch in Italy in 2006, and now he’s being forced to retire due to a claim that sounds like it has very little evidence to back it up.