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Hernando teacher cleared in ethics investigation involving girl

HERNANDO BEACH — An ethics investigation has found that a teacher and coach at Nature Coast Technical High School did nothing wrong beyond failing to immediately alert administrators that a female student was reaching out to him, the teachers union president said Tuesday afternoon.

Ryan Wilson, 29, was suspended with pay last month pending the outcome of the investigation. He teaches physical science and personal career development, and is assistant coach for the football team and head coach for the girls weight-lifting and boys track teams.

Wilson, who was back on the job Monday, did receive a letter of reprimand warning him to involve administration sooner when a student reaches out for help, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association.

In this case, a girl seeking counsel on a social issue started to contact Wilson after school hours, Vitalo said. Wilson tried to help the student as best he could and eventually informed administration, Vitalo said.

"He just should have reported it sooner rather than allowing the situation to develop to a level to which he felt uncomfortable," Vitalo said.

There was never a complaint filed against Wilson, and the union invited a full investigation that involved the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Children and Families, Vitalo said. As part of standard district procedure, any teacher under investigation is suspended with pay during the inquiry.

"People were jumping to conclusions, and we wanted to show that conclusion was wrong," Vitalo said.

The girl is not on the weight-lifting team, Vitalo said. Still, district officials recommended that Wilson not serve as girls weight-lifting coach for the remainder of this year and next year. Wilson and the union agreed to that, even though any concerns parents may have about Wilson's having close contact with female students are unfounded, Vitalo said.

District officials did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday. The report on the investigation will be made public next week.

Transparency is especially important at Nature Coast, Vitalo said. A former football coach resigned last April as the district investigated allegations of a romantic relationship with a student, and a former band director was sentenced to prison in August for having a sexual relationship with a student.

"We wanted to show that nothing was being swept under the rug because there is no rug at Nature Coast," Vitalo said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando teacher cleared in ethics investigation involving girl 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 8:16pm]
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