Updated 12/10/2012 09:00 PM
Kingston teacher on leave after drug arrest
A Kingston High School teacher has been placed on administrative leave following his arrest on felony charges of drug possession and sale. There's also an investigation into a suspicious death in Ulster County. YNN's Alexandra Weishaupt has the latest.
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KINGSTON, N.Y. -- Kingston School District students and parents stunned at the arrest of high school social studies teacher Matthew DiDonna. The 42-year-old has been charged with two felonies, including possession and sale of a controlled substance. On Monday night, he appears before a Town of Hurley judge.
“These people are supposed to be role models for our students and kids. This is disheartening when this happens. I'm just shocked,” said Jay Soechting, a Kingston High School parent.
Early Sunday morning, police obtained a search warrant in connection with a drug sale at his Hurley home, which they say could be linked to a suspicious death of neighboring Hurley resident Mark Conlin.
Police say DiDonna was found to be in possession of psilocybin mushrooms and marijuana. They say they won't know if Conlin consumed mushrooms, or his exact cause of death, until the autopsy and toxicology reports come in.
Meanwhile, Kingston City School District Superintendent Paul Padalino says he wants to assure parents that their children remain their top priority.
“We are making sure that the students are safe. Any accusation is still an accusation at this point, but we have taken steps to make sure that the teacher isn’t in front of students right now,” said Padalino.
If DiDonna is convicted, his charges will be given to the Board of Education. The board is then responsible for the final decision of whether he will remain employed by the Kingston School District.
“If he comes back, if we see him again, it's going to be…different,” said Kingston High School student Diggy Lessard.
The District Attorney's office plans on presenting DiDonna's case to the grand jury at some point in the near future.