The janitor accused of being responsible for starting the fire that destroyed the James Madison Elementary School in Edison faces a tenure hearing that could result in his being fired.

Fire damage at the James Monroe School in Edison (Edison Office of Emergency Management)

Jerome C. Higgins of East Brunswick was allegedly smoking inside the school and tossed an unfinished portion of the cigarette into a trash can. He was charged with a disorderly persons offense as smoking is prohibited on school grounds and was suspended from his job after working in the school district for 24 years.

"It is beyond the word ridiculous that a man can burn down a school building and get by with nothing more than a traffic ticket," Superintendent Richard O'Malley told NJ.com. "Therefore, the district had to act and (Tuesday) we began the process of filing tenure charges against Mr. Higgins. He needs to be held accountable for his actions."

The fire on March 22 destroyed the 50-year-old school building forcing students to finish the school year in several buildings at Middlesex Community College. Plans are underway to build temporary classrooms at St. Cecelia’s School in Iselin, five miles away from the original James Monroe property.

Dino Flammia contributed to this report

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