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JUDGE UPHOLDS FIRING OF TEACHER, BUT . . .

The Granite Board of Education had the right to fire a teacher accused of selling marijuana, but it went about it the wrong way, a federal judge has ruled.

In a case involving former Kearns Junior High School teacher Gregory Ambus, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene said selling drugs "is rationally related to the fitness of the plaintiff to teach in the Granite School District."According to court documents, Ambus was arrested by Salt Lake police in April 1986 and charged with selling marijuana out of his home. The charges were dismissed in December 1986 in exchange for Ambus' assistance in two undercover cases. His arrest record was later expunged.

Granite officials suspended Ambus without pay the day after his arrest and then fired him after administrative hearings and executive board meetings. Ambus argued that he was denied due process because he was not present or represented by counsel at the executive sessions.

The Granite School Board repeated the dismissal process at Greene's order last year, and while it satisfied his requirements, it did not satisfy his dissatisfaction with the earlier process. He said Ambus is entitled to compensatory damages, including attorney fees, for the violation of his constitutional right of due process.

However, Greene said there was no doubt that Kearns students were aware of Ambus' arrest on drug charges, and "such activity certainly constitutes a nexus to effective and persuasive teaching." Ambus' motions for reinstatement and back wages were denied.