Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teacher suspended, bus driver cleared in two Hernando school investigations

BROOKSVILLE — A Pine Grove Elementary School first-grade teacher was suspended without pay for 10 days after an investigation into allegations that she yelled at a student, made disparaging remarks about him and hit him in the chest with a backpack in April.

During a computer lab session on April 5, Ellen Lewis was asked to speak with another teacher's student, who wasn't working on a computer, according to a summary by Pine Grove assistant principal Gina Michalicka.

According to the summary, Lewis walked over to the student, snatched away his backpack and screamed at him for several minutes. She then took the backpack to her room. At the end of that day, the student went to Lewis' class to get the bag.

Teacher Cindy Martin, who has an adjoining classroom, said she heard Lewis yelling at the student, who is black, making disparaging racial comments.

Robert Whittel, an attorney representing Lewis, denied she made the remarks.

After she yelled at him, the student reported, Lewis picked up the backpack and threw it at his chest. Whittel denied that, too. He said Lewis raised her voice, but that was the extent of it.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families were called to investigate the incident. A deputy decided not to arrest Lewis and turned the case over to the State Attorney's Office, according to the school's investigation.

Lewis, 50, was removed from student contact on April 9, then suspended from May 21 until June 3. A Hernando County teacher since 2007, she was also issued a formal letter of reprimand and was told she needed to attend training on strategies to address student behavior.

The Hernando school district recently closed another investigation involving a bus driver who was arrested in Pasco County in May while transporting the Hernando High softball team.

Suspected of smoking marijuana and being high by school officials as the team was loading onto the bus after a game, 59-year-old bus driver Donna Rogers was asked by police to perform a field sobriety test.

She became irate and fought back, eventually being charged with resisting arrest without violence, according to police reports. She was never charged with being under the influence.

In a May 24 letter, superintendent Bryan Blavatt decided to reinstate her to her bus operator position. Blavatt said there was no evidence that Rogers was under the influence and noted that she voluntarily submitted to drug and alcohol tests.

Rogers is required to keep the district updated on the status of her court case. If she is convicted, the district could take further action.

Teacher suspended, bus driver cleared in two Hernando school investigations 06/12/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 8:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.