Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Education

Arrested teacher returns to work

BROOKSVILLE — A Powell Middle School teacher who was charged last weekend with driving under the influence is back in the classroom pending the outcome of his case.

Jesse Mockler, 36, returned on Tuesday, two days after his arrest in Weeki Wachee, superintendent Bryan Blavatt said Thursday. District officials declined to comment on the case earlier this week as they waited for Mockler to report the arrest within 48 hours, as required, Blavatt said.

"We looked at the situation, and at this point, based on the information we have, he has returned to duty," Blavatt said.

Now the district will wait for the case to work its way through the judicial system. The DUI is a misdemeanor charge and not one that would prompt district officials to dismiss or suspend him even if Mockler is convicted.

Under state law, a teacher on an annual contract may be suspended or dismissed at any time for immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency, gross insubordination, willful neglect of duty, drunkenness or being convicted of or entering a plea of guilty to any crime involving "moral turpitude."

Teachers are typically pulled from the classroom if accused of a felony or any offense involving children.

Mockler's own history offers an example.

In 2007, he was charged with DUI, drug trafficking and possession of illegal drugs after a deputy found 12 oxycodone pills in his pocket.

The felony drug charges prompted school officials to suspend him, but he returned to the job after accepting a plea deal that averted a felony conviction. Mockler's attorney said the pills were from an expired prescription and successfully argued that the amount didn't warrant a trafficking charge. The possession charge was dropped after Mockler completed a pretrial program that included counseling. As for the DUI, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving. He was ordered to attend a DUI school and undergo an alcohol evaluation.

Last May, he was charged with misdemeanor battery and criminal mischief after admitting to punching his girlfriend in the arm and smacking her in the face, records show. Mockler remained in the classroom. The charges were dropped after the woman asked prosecutors not to move forward and prosecutors had little other evidence to support the case.

Sunday's arrest marks Mockler's third in Florida, records show.

Mockler was driving north on U.S. 19 about 3 a.m. when a Florida Highway Patrol trooper clocked his 2003 Chevrolet at 72 mph in a 55 mph zone, according to an arrest report. The trooper stopped him at gas station at U.S. 19 and State Road 50.

His breath reeking of alcohol, Mockler failed field sobriety exercises and showed signs of "extreme impairment," the trooper wrote in the report. Belligerent and profane, Mockler admitted he was high and stated several times that he was "an alcoholic and needed help," the report said.

He was charged with DUI and refusal to submit to a breath test after a previous refusal, both misdemeanors. He posted $500 bail Sunday afternoon.

School officials can refer Mockler to an employee assistance program to receive addiction services, but he cannot be required to do so unless something happens on the job that indicates he is unfit for duty, Blavatt said.

"That was not the case in this situation," he said.

Mockler has not returned phone messages or an email from the Times.

Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes.

Comments
9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

TALLAHASSEE — The death of a fraternity pledge from alcohol poisoning has led to hazing charges against nine Florida State University students.State attorney Jack Campbell filed charges on Wednesday in Leon County Court.All nine will be charged with ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

As the Florida Legislature considers undoing the current governance of the University of South Florida by folding the three branches of its system into one entity, here is a look at some Times coverage of the long-running struggle for independence at...
Published: 01/17/18
How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

Just a satellite campus many decades ago, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has managed to carve out considerable autonomy within the arms of the USF System. But a bill moving through the state House of Representatives could undo its sep...
Published: 01/17/18
A closer look at graduation rates. How did your school do?

A closer look at graduation rates. How did your school do?

Published: 01/17/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual...
Published: 01/17/18
School board member is ‘dumbfounded’ by Times report on Hillsborough substitute teachers

School board member is ‘dumbfounded’ by Times report on Hillsborough substitute teachers

TAMPA — Members of the Hillsborough County School Board reacted with outrage, mild concern or, in some cases, not at all to a Tampa Bay Times report on misconduct by contracted substitute teachers.Responding to the Times article published Sunday, mem...
Updated: 8 hours ago
In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

Separate accreditation has long been a point of pride and a stamp of independence for the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee branches of the University of South Florida.Graduates of those schools frame diplomas bearing the name of their own universi...
Published: 01/16/18
Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year is a self-described "busy, busy bee" who never tires of exploring new ways to help students learn, even if she has to be creative.At 56, Bonnie Bresnyan also is a mentor for the next generation of s...
Published: 01/16/18

Pasco class notes for Jan. 19

Theatre/Art/MusicCenter for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (727) 774-7382.• The center’s Learn it Live! series presents The Three Little Pigs, at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24- 25. Pre-K – grade 4. Public show at 11 a.m. Jan. ...
Published: 01/16/18
Bill to sweeten Bright Futures scholarship sails through Senate

Bill to sweeten Bright Futures scholarship sails through Senate

Nearly a decade since the luster on Florida’s signature merit scholarship program began to grow dim, state lawmakers have taken a decisive step toward restoring its appeal. Just three days into the 2018 Legislative session, the Florida Senate ...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18