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Pinellas teacher and student tell 2 versions of visit

A male Pinellas County teacher facing dismissal for having an inappropriate relationship with a female student has requested a hearing, temporarily postponing a decision on his fate.

The School Board was scheduled to consider a recommendation today from superintendent Clayton Wilcox to fire Thomas J. Anderson, a girls varsity basketball coach and social studies teacher at Seminole High School.

Instead, Anderson's status is likely to change from teacher on paid administrative leave to teacher on unpaid leave until a hearing is held, said staff attorney Laurie Dart.

According to School Board documents, Anderson, 59, told the school secretary on Feb. 7 that he was not feeling well and was leaving for a doctor's appointment. After driving a short distance, Anderson picked up a 16-year-old student and took her to his home, the record states.

Anderson told officials in the district's Office of Professional Standards that he saw the student walking off campus, stopped to talk to her, and took her to his house because he knew she was having personal problems.

He said he later dropped her off a block from her house so that her parents would not find out she had skipped school.

But in an investigation conducted by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the student — who is not a member of the basketball team — told a different story. She said she had visited Anderson in his classroom during her lunch period, at which time Anderson told her his back hurt and requested that she give him a massage.

She said Anderson had suggested she skip her fourth-period class and leave campus ahead of him to avoid being seen on school security cameras. After arriving at Anderson's house, the girl told investigators, Anderson took off his shirt. She said she gave him a back massage in his bedroom.

Anderson, who could not be reached for comment Monday, denied receiving a back massage when questioned by Pinellas officials.

Seminole High principal Walter Weller did not return a call for comment, nor did an official in the Office of Professional Standards.

According to district records, Anderson was hired in 1973 to teach at Clearwater High School. He resigned in 1980 and was rehired in 1983 as a teacher at Dunedin Highland Middle School.

He resigned again in 1984 and was rehired as a substitute teacher in 1995. He came to Seminole High the following year. His annual salary is $46,020.

Pinellas teacher and student tell 2 versions of visit 03/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2008 1:38pm]
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