State newspaper reporter, Joy Woodson, has reported that Mihaela Sinzianu Livingston, a Romanian exchange teacher, has alleged in a lawsuit that she lost her job because she fell in love, got married, and decided to stay in America.
Ms. Livingston is suing FACES, a Columbia-based academic and cultural teaching exchange program, even though she signed a contract that bans participants from trying to remain in the United States and requires them to return home to teach for at least two years.
Ms. Livingston’s attorney says the contract is “unenforceable” and “unconscionable.”
FACES attorney Rebecca Fulmer said the requirements are vital if the program is to function as a true cultural exchange. She said, in the 2005-06 school year, some 66 percent to 75 percent of third-year teachers in FACES sought waivers to stay in the United States.
Ms. Fulmer said “What happens is that the exchange program becomes converted into an immigration program and that’s the danger..
Ms. Livingston met Allen Livingston after she had been teaching for two years in the Fairfield County School District. They got married in July 2006.
As part of the contract she signed, she is banned from teaching in South Carolina for two years. Ms. Livingston was fired in December after applying for permanent residency.
There are 364 foreign teachers currently on visitor visas in South Carolina.
Ms. Livingston’s attorney said that she applied for a “no objection” waiver to stay in the United States. That waiver is granted by the home country, in her case Romania, which states it has no problem with a citizen seeking residence elsewhere.
Ms. Livingston’s attorney said she understands that she breached the contract but that she didn’t understand the implications of signing it. He went on to say that prohibiting her from teaching in South Carolina for two years is unfair and overly broad in part because it allows a private business to take away basic human rights.
That isn’t what the United States should be about, said her 43-year-old husband, Allen Livingston.
“It’s just not fair what’s happened to us,” he said.
“I fell in love. What about my rights? Is my wife supposed to go home and be away from me for two years?.