ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Parents don't expect those who teach children to participate in drugs, alcohol and child abuse.
However, some teachers in the Tampa Bay area have been disciplined for that and worse; and they're still allowed to teach in Florida.
One teacher grabbed a 12-year-old by the wrist and encouraged a fight. Another drew genitals on a student's face before chopping off the student's hair.
“I can’t believe they’re allowed to do that,” parent Tammy Roque said.
10Investigates spent two months digging through discipline records over the past five years to find out why teachers with disciplinary actions in their files are still allowed in the classroom.
We shared some of the most shocking findings with Roque and another parent, Lewis Stephens.
One teacher was disciplined for using the N-word and is still licensed until 2021. Another was disciplined for taping a kindergartner's eyes closed.
“That’s against policy. My child would be switched to another classroom,” Stephens said.
From Sarasota to Citrus, 10Investigates found teachers disciplined for these incidents and more, yet are still licensed to teach in the state of Florida.
One teacher was found to be under the influence of drugs while on duty. Another was accused of dragging a 6-year-old with Down syndrome by the ponytail.
“That should be immediate termination,” Roque said. “Never to be able to teach again.”
When a teacher is reported for misconduct in the classroom, a report is sent to the Department of Education then handed over to the Education Practices Commission. This commission ultimately decides the punishment a teacher will receive, including if a teaching license is revoked.
When we went to Tallahassee, we found this commission meeting inside a hotel. The commission is made up of teachers, school administrators, law enforcement and some parents. It hears all sorts of cases, including ones qualifying for immediate revocation of a teacher’s license.
“We do have ranges for educator misconduct,” Director Gretchen Brantley said. “When the commission considers sanctions to apply, we look at guidelines -- has there been history, whether previous misconduct, whether an applicant, how long in the classroom. So a variety of factors they consider.”
We also found teachers like one in Hernando County, who was disciplined for saying to his class “May as well be mentally ********.” He still teaches science there.
So we asked Brantley if the guidelines in place should be tougher.
“I know there’s a lot of agreement on stakeholders on toughening sanctions,” Brantley said.
In Polk County, there was a teacher reported for taping the mouths of second-graders shut and tying them to chairs using clothing. That educator is still in a classroom.
“I am aware,” Polk County School Board Chair Lynn Wilson said. “But you have to look at every incident as case by case. Was this a classroom lesson that was taken the wrong way? You have to look at every case differently.”
“Florida is already falling behind and the school system is never going to improve if we don’t improve our teachers,” Roque said.
“We have great teachers our there -- they inspire us,” Stephens said. “And then there are these teachers that totally counteract all that.”
Does your child's teacher have a disciplinary record?
Here's where you can find out: Discipline against Educator Licenses
Want to check the disciplinary history of your child's teacher who previously taught out of state? There's a database for that.
One catch: Not every district participates. Only two districts in Florida contribute to the national database.
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