|3 Fla. School Staffers Suspended for Alleged Roles in Sex Abuse Cover-Up|
|By CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27)||Oct 15, 2013, 6:26 AM|
A former principal and two former assistant principals from a Florida school district have been suspended without pay for their allegedly mishandling complaints of sexual abuse by one of the school's football coaches.
The administrators were suspended after three unanimous votes at a Manatee County School Board meeting on Monday evening, according to ABC News' Tampa affiliate WFTS.
Former Manatee High School assistant football coach Rod Frazier has been accused of child abuse and inappropriate sexual conduct with students and staff in at the school in Manatee County, Fla.
Frazier resigned before being charged with seven counts of battery for allegedly groping students and staff.
Five school district administrators are being investigated after being accused of not reporting abuse to authorities or improperly handling investigations into the accusations.
Before Monday evening's school board meeting, one of the administrators in question resigned and filed for immediate retirement. A second administrator also resigned, according to District Superintendent Rick Mills.
Three who did not resign were suspended. Attorneys for the three suspended administrators vocally denied the accusations at the meeting.
The three suspended officials were charged with failure to report child abuse and lying to police. They pleaded not guilty to all counts.
"I'm telling you that I'm confident that there's no way on God's green Earth that in a court of law you're going to have this upheld," lawyer Richard Reinhart argued to the board, according to WFTS. "All this was a hatchet job by political hacks."
Reinhart represents Bob Gagnon, a former Manatee High School principal and assistant superintendent, who was one of the people suspended.
Mills recommended that the suspension be eventually followed by termination. The suspended officials have 21 days to file a request for an administrative hearing before the board meets to discuss their terminations, WFTS reported.
A 182-page document detailing the school district's investigation included transcripts of interviews with the five employees who Mills recommended for termination.
In the interviews, the administrators were asked about allegations and incidents that included Frazier allegedly calling a student in her classroom and asking her if she needed a tampon, having a student sitting on his lap, and a conversation overheard between two students saying that he showed "white girls favoritism."
Frazier did not respond to request for comment.
At least one of the accused employees denied that any action or inaction had to do with Frazier being a football coach or wanting to speed up an investigation in order to get him back on the field in time for a playoff game.
"It had nothing to do with football, absolutely not," the administrator said, according to the report. "It had to do with getting an investigation going on somebody that may be doing something inappropriately with our kids; getting it going."
The investigative report concluded that "As the investigation proceeded, actions and inactions of district administrators came to light which suggested the possibility of administrative negligence and/or intentional misconduct."
"The investigation was broadened to determine whether these administrators had prior knowledge of complaints by female students and faculty regarding inappropriate conduct involving Roderick Frazier and if so, why the complaints were not properly addressed," the report stated.
The report concluded that the five employees had violated rules and could be temporarily suspended without pay or permanently terminated for charges including "immorality," "misconduct in office" and "willful neglect of duty" by their actions and/or inactions.