Teacher creates health scare after bringing in dead fox

By Matt Porter

March 6, 2014 Updated Mar 7, 2014 at 6:12 AM EDT

Greene, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Some parents in Greene were surprised to learn Wednesday from a letter from the superintendent that their sons and daughters may have been exposed to a dead rabid animal.

Justin Pisanello, a high school teacher in Greene, brought in a dead fox to show off to his three classes last Wednesday on Feb. 27.

Administrators only took action after a parent learned of the incident on March 5 through social media and notified the district.

Superintendent Jonathan Retz issued a letter to parents of the 55 students who were exposed to the fox in three classes informing them the Chenango County Health Department had been alerted and some students may need rabies vaccinations.

"I did not know until a parent informed us yesterday," Retz said. "Bringing the fox in had nothing to do with the teacher's lessons."

The letter said the school wasn't able to locate the remains because it was skinned at another location. However, late in the day, they were able to recover and test the fox.

The fox tested negative for rabies so students do not need to be vaccinated.

Tiffany Ferguson, a student in Whitney Point, said her friends in Greene told her about the story, but she didn't believe it at first.

"That's crazy, oh my God, that's gross," Ferugson said.

Pisanello did not teach in the hard sciences according to parents and the superintendent said the dead animal had nothing to do with any lesson.

Philip Seiden, a former science teacher in Walton visiting Greene, said he couldn't understand why a teacher would bring in a dead animal without a reason.

"It seems to be a little bit inappropriate," Seiden said. "I don't understand his motivation, it doesn't seem to go with what he's teaching."

According to the health department which interviewed students, Pisanello picked up the fox from the side of the road in the morning.

Students in his class the day before made him aware of the fox's location.

The health department said Pisanello took no precautions when handling the fox. He did not wear goggles or gloves.

Pisanello never informed administrators of his decision according to the superintendent, something that shocked people in Greene.

"To bring a animal in live or dead, it should have went through the office," said Murray Kent of Cortland. "People should have known beforehand."

Jazmyn DiRosa has a ninth-grade daughter in the school. Although she wasn't in Pisanello's class, she was shocked it took the school a week to take action.

"My daughter told me the day that it happened, so you think the kids that actually saw or handled the fox would have told their parents immediately," DiRosa said. "And there would have been a quicker reaction."

Pisanello has not been disciplined by the district yet, but the superintendent said the district is continuing to investigate the incident.