Sunday, September 23, 2018
Education

Hillsborough judge's bid to get veteran back into USF gets attention of U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs

TAMPA — A Hillsborough County judge's effort to have a former Army Green Beret re-admitted to the University of South Florida won an influential ally Friday: the U.S. secretary of veterans affairs.

In an email to a USF trustee, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald didn't specifically mention the case of former Army Staff Sgt. Clay Allred, who is on probation for firing a gun outside a Tampa gas station last year, a felony offense.

But McDonald emphasized the importance of education in rehabilitating veterans — "even those who have committed felonies."

"If a school like USF eliminates our ability to use education (GI Bill, Voc Rehab) as a way to treat a veteran … I find that a very serious issue that I would like to discuss with the leadership of the school," McDonald wrote.

USF Board of Trustees chairman Harold Mullis said he hadn't seen the email Friday.

Circuit Judge Gregory Holder, who sits on a special court for veterans, has pushed USF in recent weeks to readmit Allred, 30, who needs 17 credits to finish his degree.

This week, Holder made his case to the university's board. He also sent a followup email to trustee Scott Hopes, copying McDonald, a friend from his time at West Point who took the helm of the Department of Veterans Affairs last year.

"The secretary has been following this case very closely," Holder said. "This situation applies to all veterans."

In an email to the Tampa Bay Times, McDonald didn't comment on the particulars of Allred's case, but said Veteran Treatment Courts like Holder's are "an important part of the work we do at VA."

However, the Board of Trustees typically does not get involved in individual admissions cases. Allred has not yet applied for a special review process through which he could appeal USF's decision to dismiss him for the incident last year that got him into legal trouble.

A university spokesman said the school respects its many student veterans and has been recognized nationally for its work to help them transition from military service to college and a new career.

"USF has an established process for admissions," said USF media and public affairs manager Adam Freeman. "Any applicant who has been convicted of a felony, regardless of their background, must complete the terms of court-ordered sentencing before they are considered. The safety of our 48,000 students and approximately 15,000 employees is the highest priority for USF."

Allred, who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder after serving tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, was expelled from USF's Tampa campus over the gun incident. Allred stopped to use the restroom at a Mobil station on Fowler Avenue and was turned away. When the attendant, a Muslim man, told him the gas station was closed, Allred urinated on the floor, told the clerk, "I don't like you people," and pulled an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle from his car. Driving away, he fired a handgun into the air three times.

But Holder says Allred has been eager to get rehabilitation and deserves a second chance. McDonald said in his email that education was key to getting veterans help.

"Our current best approach models use education to get veterans, even those who have committed felonies, back (on) their feet and reintegrated into society," McDonald wrote to Hopes and Holder.

"I can't tell you the number of lives that have been saved, and education is an important part of this."

 
Comments
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18

Two acclaimed authors to speak about water at USF St. Petersburg

Pulitzer Prize winner and University of Florida professor Jack Davis thinks people need to humble themselves more toward water."The water doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the water," he said. "Without water, humanity would not exist, life would not...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18
Hillsborough school district releases referendum wish list

Hillsborough school district releases referendum wish list

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District on Friday released a long-awaited, school-by-school list of 1,785 projects to be funded by a proposed half-cent sales tax hike.The list, now on the district website, includes playgrounds for Anderson El...
Published: 09/21/18
Pinellas education news: college fairs, lectures and more

Pinellas education news: college fairs, lectures and more

Students, parents invited to three upcoming college and career fairsThree events are scheduled over the next two weeks that are designed to help students plan their next steps after leaving the Pinellas County school system. The University of South F...
Published: 09/21/18
Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well

Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well

TRINITY — Julie Michael stood in the metal bleachers, flute poised at her lips, ready to play the national anthem with the Seven Springs Middle School advanced band.As the band segued into the school fight song, the eighth-grader continued per...
Published: 09/20/18
Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

And 200,000 third-graders just rolled their eyes.I swear, even they can see through the education proposals offered by gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum this week.Let’s see, the Republican wants more privatization. And the Democ...
Published: 09/20/18

Local rapper encourages elementary students to attend school every day(w/video)

Local rapper Corey Thornton performs original songs on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019 about the importance of school attendance at Walsingham Elementary School during a school wide assembly. During Attendance Awareness Month, Pinellas County Schools and th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

TAMPA — All summer, while most students were gone, the University of South Florida has been toiling away on a blueprint for the complex merger of the USF System.Its three universities in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota will soon consolidate into o...
Published: 09/19/18
Employee pay dominates Pasco schools budget debate

Employee pay dominates Pasco schools budget debate

LAND O' LAKES — The Pasco County School Board unanimously adopted a $1.26 billion budget Tuesday with a slightly lowered tax rate and funding for new school construction in both east and west Pasco.But the spending item that grabbed most of th...
Published: 09/19/18
Ernest Hooper: HCC helps light the way for those on life's winding paths

Ernest Hooper: HCC helps light the way for those on life's winding paths

After he graduated from a Maryland high school, Rickey Murray had a number of opportunities awaiting him at a number of four-year institutions.He eyed the University of South Florida, applied to Florida International University and considered Virgini...
Published: 09/18/18