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Report details Lamle's 'lapse in judgment'

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Tue. June 8, 2010 | Tony Marrero

BROOKSVILLE — Travis Lamle woke up one Monday last month with the urge to go swimming.

Lamle brought his swimsuit with him to work as a physical education teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School in Brooksville with the intent to take up a friend on her offer to use the family pool, according to a Hernando School district investigation report released Monday.

Lamle had known the family for two years, coached one of the daughters on the Nature Coast girls basketball team, and had permission to take the girl — a 10th grader — home from school when her mother could not.

On May 10, Lamle, 34, drove the student home and the two took a dip in the pool, records show. When the girl's mother got home about 4:45, Lamle was walking out of the girl's bedroom wearing shorts and shoes but no shirt. The girl was out by the pool.

Lamle and the mother made small talk and he left, but afterward the mother reported the incident to the Hernando Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's officials concluded that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed and did not arrest Lamle, but the school district removed him from student contact during its own investigation.

Lamle denied having an inappropriate relationship with the girl, telling officials she viewed him more like "a big brother," according to the district's investigation records. He said he changed into and out of his swimsuit in the bathroom near the girl's bedroom and had left his clothes just inside her bedroom door.

The teacher was suspended without pay for 10 days and given a formal letter of reprimand for violating the state's code of ethics and professional conduct. He was removed as coach of the girls basketball team, is forbidden from coaching any sport for the next five years, and must complete an ethics training course.

"You exercised poor judgment in your actions by placing yourself in a compromising position alone with a student," Superintendent Bryan Blavatt wrote in the reprimand letter. "Regardless of the circumstances that may have brought them about, such inappropriate actions on your part do not reflect positively on your position."

Lamle's suspension ends today and he is expected back to work on Wednesday.

"Looking back in hindsight I guess I had a lapse in judgment," Lamle told school officials, according to a summary of an interview taken during the inquiry. "I could see how I could have crossed the line for (the) coach-student relationship."

The girl was asked by her mother if anything was going on with Lamle, according to a summary of a follow-up conversation between the mother and Nature Coast principal Toni-Ann Noyes. "That is disgusting," the girl replied.

The girl told a deputy that Lamle has never made inappropriate advances or comments to her, or that she has ever been uncomfortable around him, according to a sheriff's office report. The girl said she was upset with her mother for thinking that "something is going on."

According to Noyes, the mother said she told Lamle he could use the pool but did not have permission to be inside the house when she was not at home. But Lamle told school officials that the mother left him alone with the two girls on occasion when she ran errands such as grocery shopping.

Lamle told school officials that he had briefly dated the mother two years ago but that he was now just a close family friend. He visited with the family as recently as Mother's Day, the day before he went swimming.

Lamle told officials that he met with the mother the following Wednesday and she told him she felt compelled to investigate the incident.

"I told her the allegations alone were going to hurt me," Lamle said. "I've seen what has happened in the past."

Lamle is the latest in a string of Nature Coast staffers to be investigated for inappropriate contact with a student, and he is being judged based on the guilt of others, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association.

"Because of the actions of somebody in the past, teachers are guilty until proven guilty, and the consequences they have to face are not always caused by themselves," Vitalo said. "Five years no coaching? Is the consequence based on his own judgment or somebody else's incident?"

Blavatt, however, noted that he arrived on the job April 1 and couldn't take past cases into account even if he wanted to. He stood by Lamle's punishment. "There is some pretty compelling information there that indicates this is appropriate," he said.

Lamle, reached Monday afternoon, said he doesn't feel like he's being punished for the actions of others. He declined to comment further.

Lamle, who joined the district in 2000 as a middle school physical education teacher, was disciplined in 2004 for inappropriate sexual comments and actions toward a female co-worker at Fox Chapel Middle School. He was required to review the district's video on sexual harassment.

Lamle was removed as Nature Coast's athletic director in August as part of the fallout stemming from recurring problems with the football program, which has had three head coaches since April 2009. He coached the girls basketball team for three seasons to an overall record of 61-22.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.comend_of_

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