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Former Teacher Of The Year Accused Of Inappropriately Touching Children

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An internationally-renowned former Teacher of the Year has been fired by LAUSD after allegations he inappropriately touched minors before and during his teaching career.

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to fire Hobart Avenue Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith. The fifth grade teacher had been on leave since April after an allegation from another teacher that he made an inappropriate joke about nudity in front of his students. The joke that launched the investigation, according to court documents, was a comment by Esquith that his students would have to perform nude, like a character in Mark Twain's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, if they couldn't raise enough money for an annual Shakespeare play.

The L.A. Times reports that a letter received by Esquith's attorney in August says other allegations revealed in the investigation include accusations that he inappropriately touched children before and during his teaching career and "ethical and district policy violations" in his handling of his nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans. "Multiple inappropriate photographs and videos of a sexual nature" were also uncovered. Esquith's attorneys have accused LAUSD of running a smear campaign against the teacher and have filed a lawsuit for his reinstatement.

The suspension of Esquith prompted a backlash among fellow teachers and parents. The former Disney Teacher of the Year has written three best-selling books and gained international acclaim.