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Hernando school officials uphold suspension of school employee accused of sexual harassment

By Megan Reeves | Times Staff
Published: March 7, 2018 Updated: March 9, 2018 at 03:28 PM
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Hernando County School District

BROOKSVILLE ó The Hernando County School Board last week unanimously agreed to suspend without pay a school employee accused by coworkers of sexual harassment. Their vote upheld the district superintendentís earlier decision.

Ricky Yepez, a paraprofessional at Spring Hill Elementary since 2015, served the suspension in December and January, but recently contested the ruling made by Superintendent Lori Romano at the end of last year.

A female employee at the school filed a complaint in October alleging sexual harassment by Yepez, 49, according to the district.

A week-long investigation by Principal Michael Maine and Vice Principal Kristen Tormey found that "several females" working at the school had similar issues with Yepez.

In interviews, the women reported he made inappropriate and unsolicited comments about parentsí and colleaguesí bodies, and talked publicly about sexual relationships he had with women online. Some alleged he often violated their personal space and placed his hands on them in ways that made them uncomfortable, according to the investigation file.

Once notified of the complaints, Yepez wrote a letter to Maine, denying any wrongdoing. Later, in a questionnaire given to him as part of the investigation, Yepez said "this didnít ever happen." He maintained those claims at a November meeting with district staff.

At a Feb. 27 disciplinary appeal meeting, the School Board denied a request by Yepez and his attorney to have the ruling overturned. Yepez had no prior disciplinary problems, according to district spokesperson Karen Jordan.

Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.

Editorís note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the title of Yepez.