NEW BEDFORD — A former teaching assistant is suing a New Bedford vocational school for wrongful termination and breach of contract after he was fired for going to a school event wearing his police uniform — including his firearm.

Kyle Mello, a former TA at the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, noted in the lawsuit that he was asked to come volunteer at an after prom event directly after working a shift as a detail officer in May 2019.

In the complaint, Mello — who also worked for the Mansfield Police Department and the Bristol County Sheriff's Office — noted he had received explicit permission from the School Resource Officer to swing by the event in full uniform.

But he was terminated later that year for violating school policy in bringing a firearm onto school grounds.

A hearing in the ongoing lawsuit was recently pushed back from earlier this month until July.

Bristol Superior Court Judge Renee Dupuis had previously noted in a decision in January that it is unclear if school policy was in fact violated, adding "the school itself exhibits little clarity in enforcement of the policy."

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According to the complaint, filed in December 2019, Mello stopped by the after prom event in his uniform just to fix a photo booth printer.

He had done so per a request from the event coordinator before going home to change and returning as a volunteer, he argued.

Read the official complaint

Mello also claims that the School Resource Officer had cleared him to come in full uniform, and that senior school officials saw him with the firearm there and did not object.

Despite this, Mello stated in the lawsuit, other officials asked him to leave and later filed paperwork ultimately leading to his termination.

GNB Voc-Tech representatives wrote in a response that the SRO did not have the authority to allow Mello to bring his gun to the event, and that school policy clearly prohibits employees from bringing firearms to campus.

They state that Mello was acting in his capacity as an educator — not as law enforcement — at the event, and denied knowledge of the event coordinator asking Mello to fix the printer.

Mello is being represented by former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, who stated that the next hearing in the case will take place in July.

The court will decide whether to reconsider denying the school's request for judgment without a full trial.

In the complaint, Mello notes that he has worked for the school since 2014 and regularly volunteered at the after prom event.

On May 30, 2019, he stated, the event coordinator called him as he was driving to a Mansfield Police detail shift and asked him to come to the school event "as soon as possible" due to a photo booth printer issue.

He then contacted the Voc-Tech SRO and asked if he could go directly from his detail shift to the event in full uniform. The SRO consented.

However, according to GNB Voc-Tech, the SRO did not have the authority to allow Mello to bring a firearm to campus.

Massachusetts law prohibits anyone from bringing a firearm onto school grounds without written authorization of the board or officer in charge of the school.

After a School Committee member at the event complained to school officials, Mello was fired for violating school policy, according to the lawsuit.

He claims he was denied the right to a fair hearing to appeal the decision in August.

Mello stated in the complaint that he and his family, which includes young children, relied on medical benefits from his position at GNB Voc-Tech.

Editor's note: Work on this story was being undertaken well before the events in Uvalde on Tuesday. It had been held for publication out of sensitivity to potential perceptions of this incident, which at no point caused harm to children.

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