Thursday, December 14, 2017
Education

Pinellas school clerk resigns after investigators find she beat student with a belt

ST. PETERSBURG — A student who disrupted class at Campbell Park Elementary School was beaten with a belt by the school's front office clerk in the nurse's clinic, according to school system documents.

The school's nurse closed the door to muffle the child's screams, while a school volunteer gave clerk Tonya Robinson the belt she used on the first-grade student, according to witnesses.

Robinson, 38, resigned last week after learning officials would recommend she be fired. The aide knew the child's family and sought permission from the boy's mother to "spank" him with a belt.

Corporal punishment is against Pinellas County schools policy.

Diana Oliveira, a social worker with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, saw the incident and told investigators that Markita Lattimer, the school's nurse, closed the clinic's door "as if to conceal what was occurring because she could hear it at the front office."

Oliveira heard cries, screams of "no," and striking noises.

Lattimer reports to the Pinellas Health Department, which has reassigned her out of the school. The cafeteria volunteer who is alleged to have provided the belt will no longer be volunteering in Pinellas schools, district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra said.

Parra said Campbell Park parents had not been notified about the Jan. 21 incident because it was an "isolated event."

"Because the investigators did not find any indication that this situation had occurred with other students, they did not feel it was necessary to notify other parents about this incident," Parra said.

Oliveira said that when the boy first came to the front office, Robinson told him to be quiet, but he didn't listen. After calling the boy's mother, Robinson took him into the nurse's clinic. "She yelled at (him) to get in there," referring to the clinic's bathroom, Oliveira said. Shortly thereafter, Lattimer closed the clinic door.

In an interview with investigators, the child said he had gotten in trouble for throwing a chair. He told assistant principal Christine Hoffman that Robinson had retrieved him from class, brought him to the front office, then "she whooped me with a belt."

The report did not give the child's age, but noted his teacher's name, who teaches first-grade. Most first-graders are 6 or 7 years old.

The boy told investigators that it happened in the bathroom of the clinic. "He said it hurt," investigator John Zegzdryn wrote.

The boy said he had been hit on his legs but that the marks had gone away.

In an interview with Valencia Walker, the administrator of the Office of Professional Standards, Robinson said she was given the belt by a cafeteria volunteer, Shaquanna Shelton, 31. In an interview, Shelton supported Robinson's actions. "Do you know how many kids give that lady issues? Do you know how many kids in that school need a whooping?"

Zegzdryn said that because there were no visible injuries on the child, and because Robinson had received permission from his mother, no criminal charges were being sought.

Lattimer, the nurse, told investigators the incident never happened.

Surveillance video of the hallway outside the clinic shows Robinson walking in with the boy at 9:57 a.m. and the clinic door closing at 10:01 a.m.

Robinson declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday. She was reassigned to the district's warehouse for the duration of the investigation.

Robinson began working for the district as a food service assistant at Campbell Park in 2010. She then became a clerk for the school and received strong marks in a February 2013 evaluation. Administrators described her as a "self-starter" with "great job knowledge."

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

Comments
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

TAMPA — Elementary school students programmed an electronic mouse to make its way through a maze.Middle school students directed an electronic vehicle to stop on a dime, then use its arms to locate and lift a tiny cube.When the demonstration was done...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Pasco-Hernando State College faculty to consider unionizing

Caitlin Gille grew up in a union household in Wisconsin, where her mom was a long-time teacher in the small city of Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee.She was accustomed to seeing educators advocating for their working conditions and pay, having a sea...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

NEW YORK — This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it’s been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70 percent over 2016 on Mer...
Published: 12/12/17
Book tasting event lets Fox Chapel students indulge their love of reading

Book tasting event lets Fox Chapel students indulge their love of reading

SPRING HILL — As she perused the book, something about Night of the Living Worms piqued sixth-grader Inessia Richardson’s interest. So she decided to take it home from the Fox Chapel Middle School library.The opportunity to look at Night of the Livin...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/14/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17