Former upper school music teacher arrested on misconduct charges

Community moves forward after former teacher’s arrest


Kathy Fang

The upper school’s quad. Former Harker upper school teacher Florio was terminated in June and arrested on Aug. 16 on felony and misdemeanor charges.

A former Harker upper school teacher was arrested in San Jose on Aug. 16 and faces criminal charges for inappropriate communication with a minor during school functions and on social media.

Schools officials terminated instrumental music teacher, orchestra and jazz band conductor and class of 2019 dean Christopher Florio, 39, after they were informed of an allegation of misconduct with a student.

Head of School Brian Yager met with faculty about the situation as well as Harker policy on appropriate faculty-student interactions this week. Yager encourages students who are processing the situation and who want to talk to reach out to counselors, advisers and administrators.

“In any situation that is challenging, there’s a lot of dynamics involved that are hard to manage for the community, and a range of emotions,” Yager said in an interview with Harker Aquila and Winged Post. “We have to recognize that and, as always, be our best and learn from this experience.”

In any situation that is challenging, there’s a lot of dynamics involved that are hard to manage for the community, and a range of emotions. We have to recognize that and, as always, be our best and learn from this experience.”

— Head of School Brian Yager

Dr. David Hart, an instrumental and vocal music teacher at the middle school, has transitioned to the upper school to assume Florio’s teaching roles. Members of upper school music groups and their parents were notified of this transition on June 30, but no further details about Florio’s departure were provided at the time.

“I have a love of this place and I have a love of the faculty and the students here,” Hart said. “I’m happy to now be a part of this team here.”

Upper school math teacher and former class of 2018 dean Dr. Victor Adler will take on Florio’s role as dean of the class of 2019.

“I understand that it’s a loss. Somebody’s been with you for three years, and having gone through that process, I understand you get attached to this person,” Dr. Adler said. “I feel bad for the class, for sure. At some point we have to move forward, the class does, and I hope that we move forward together.”

Prior to his termination, Florio had taught at the upper school for nine years. Members of the community received the news with a range of reactions. Teachers in the performing arts department, as well as the rest of the school, look to support their students in the coming months.

“Often in arts classes, people’s emotions come up, and we want to be able to let students say they’re sad or angry or whatever they are,” Director of Performing Arts Laura Lang-Ree said. “We’re often in a dance, or in a play, or in a musical; we’re talking about deep and personal things, and so we’re fostering that kind of conversation, but at a level where the student feels safe.”

Students and teachers alike are dealing with the impact of the situation.

“I was a little bit disturbed, and over the next coming days, I kept thinking about it. I really could not believe it,” said ASB President Neil Ramaswamy (12), who had previously worked with Florio in student council and jazz band.

At the school meeting on Tuesday, Upper School Division Head Butch Keller will deliver an announcement to the student body about safety precautions and student-teacher interactions.

“I care so much about your emotional and your physical safety—that is what my main concern is everyday,” Keller said. “You’re in a community that cares about you, supports you, is there for you. When you come to school, I want it to be a place where you’re so comfortable that you feel good about the things you do—that’s how we all feel, we want you to be safe.”

Currently, policies relating to student-teacher communication states that “all email communications between students and The Harker School faculty or staff must be through their official school email account.” Otherwise, students and teachers are only permitted to communicate through social media or text “after the student has become an alumna/us of the school and is 18 years of age or older.”

Keller advises students who feel uncomfortable to tell someone in the community as soon as they can.

“Just go to the next teacher you see and you trust, go to your advisor, go to one of your counselors, come to me. Any adult in the community would be a good adult to go to if something didn’t seem right to you,” Keller said. “Go to somebody in the community. That’s what we’re about.”

After the San Jose Police Department conducted an investigation into the allegations, Florio was arrested and booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on Aug. 16 on for communicating with a minor and misdemeanor charges for annoying a minor. That same day, SJPD Police Sergeant Enrique Garcia issued a press release to inform local media outlets about the allegations.

The San Jose Police Department’s media relations unit declined an interview request from the Winged Post due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Anyone with information regarding this incident may contact Detective Chris Mendoza of the San Jose Police Department at (408) 537-1379.

Additional reporting by Eric Fang, news editor.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on Aug. 31, 2018.