The Bergenfield, N.J., board of education is suing a physics teacher to recoup wages it paid him while he allegedly viewed computer pornography during school hours. The viewing took place in a school physics room and included times when students were in the room, school officials said.

According to the Associated Press, Alan Ross, who taught 11th- and 12th-grade chemistry, physics, and earth science before being suspended without pay last year, also has a tenure challenge pending. If Ross is found guilty, he would lose tenure and the board would be allowed to fire him.

“I don’t think it’s part of his job description to search pornography off the internet while he’s on the payroll,” school board President Vernon Cox said.

Ross was suspended without pay from his $78,500-a-year job in February 1998 after district officials learned that sexually explicit material had been obtained several times through the internet on the computer he used during school hours.

Students told school officials they saw Ross viewing pornographic pictures on the computer on his desk in the physics room, school officials allege. Board officials then removed the computer from the room and forwarded it to a consulting company to determine what information had been downloaded.

A report on computer-stored information viewed from Nov. 3 through Dec. 19, 1997 showed visits to about 2,900 sites, more than half of which were categorized as adult or personal.

All of the online visits occurred during school time–and about 55 percent while students were present in the physics room, school officials said. No sites were visited on the three days Ross was absent during that period, they said.

Ross has denied the charges and asked the state commissioner of education to dismiss them. Neither Ross nor his attorney, Harold N. Springstead, could be reached for comment.