A French teacher at an exclusive private school who, with the permission of parents, let students drink wine while on a field trip to France could not convince a judge her contract had been breached when she was fired for violating school policies against drinking. All of the parents of the six seniors that Daniele Benatouil, a 12-year teacher at The Calhoun School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, took to France in May 2010 agreed in writing that their children could have a glass of wine during dinner. But the school has a “zero tolerance” policy toward drug, alcohol and cigarette use, and parents and students were required to complete a form promising to “abstain from all alcohol and drugs” during the trip.
Administrators learned of the imbibing during an after-trip presentation. They claim that Benatouil, who was making just over $80,000 a year, resigned after “insubordinate” behavior and “profane” language during a meeting. Benatouil said she acted professionally but was terminated and asked to leave the building. She filed suit against the school later in 2010.
Manhattan Acting Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler (See Profile) noted that the school had “a clear and unambiguous” policy against alcohol use, which Benatouil knew or should have known. “While Benatouil attempted to mitigate her actions by seeking and obtaining consents from the parents to permit their children to imbibe alcohol in France, she did not obtain oral or written permission from her supervisors to circumvent the School’s policy and trip guidelines. These consents did not abrogate the School’s right to maintain its policy,” Hagler wrote in Benatouil v. The Calhoun School, 108380/2010. The Associated Press reported that Benatouil is considering an appeal.