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Three Pasco teachers suspended over 'inappropriate behavior' toward students

LAND O'LAKES — A Seven Springs Middle School soccer coach is banned from coaching at Pasco County public schools after witnesses saw him grab, shove and swear at a student athlete.

An Anclote High social studies teacher is prohibited from having girls in his classroom during his lunch and planning periods after having "inappropriate communications" with a female student, according to district officials.

And a Chasco Middle School teacher has been reprimanded after admitting to spraying water from a water bottle on a student.

All three teachers received unpaid suspensions this month, along with warnings that repeating such behavior would result in a recommendation that they be fired.

"Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior," superintendent Heather Fiorentino said. "I discipline on all of it."

The School Board confirmed the disciplinary actions on March 2 without appeal from the teachers. The documents in each case became available days later.

The first case involves Vincent Schell, who has taught and coached soccer at Seven Springs Middle School since 2005.

According to Fiorentino, Schell was coaching his team at the Mitchell High athletic fields while the Mitchell track team also was practicing. Some of the runners kept running between the bench and the field while the soccer game was going on, and Schell "was trying to push the kids out of the way," Fiorentino said.

During a district investigation, Schell, 53, reportedly admitted that he touched a student on the shoulders while standing near the fence line. But witnesses told the investigator that Schell "grabbed the student by the shoulders, pushed the student into the fence line, grabbed the student … by the shirt while along the fence line and used profanity while yelling at the student," according to a letter the district sent Schell about his suspension.

Fiorentino recommended a three-day unpaid suspension, plus a ban from coaching in the district through 2011-12.

Schell, who had strong evaluations and no other disciplinary actions in his file, refused to sign the letter notifying him of his suspension. When contacted by the Times, he said via e-mail that he did not have time to speak about the situation and would not comment in writing for fear that his words would be taken out of context.

Four years ago, Schell fought the school district after being denied the Mitchell High soccer head coaching job in favor of someone who did not work full-time for the district. An arbitrator ruled that principals can hire whomever they like as staff members.

The second case involves Chuck Moehle, a social studies teacher at Anclote High School.

A district spokeswoman said that Moehle, 53, faced a complaint from a female student and her parents that he repeatedly pulled her from class for no reason, and that he visited their home without invitation.

"There was no evidence of any inappropriate relationship," spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said. "But it was not in the line of professional conduct. What he was doing did not meet our expectations of professional behavior."

Fiorentino wrote in a letter notifying Moehle of his two-day unpaid suspension that his action showed a "profound lack of good judgment."

She said he should have no further contact with the student, and that he was not allowed to have female students in his classroom during his lunch or planning time.

In addition, Fiorentino wrote that Moehle may not go to any students' home without prior permission and consent of the parents, and that he must notify his administrators before going to a student's home.

Moehle, a longtime teacher and former athletic director at Land O'Lakes High School, said he considered the matter over and done.

"They did what they felt was the right thing to do. I will abide by it because I work for the Pasco County schools," said Moehle, who has had positive evaluations and recommendations since joining the district in 2003. "But anybody who knows me knows I would not do anything inappropriate."

The third case involves Marty Richardson, a math teacher at Chasco Middle School.

According to documents, Richardson, 61, admitted to intentionally spraying water on a student. No further explanation was offered.

Fiorentino suspended her for two days without pay.

Richardson had one previous reprimand in her file from 2007, for telling three girls who were misbehaving in class that they were behaving like a "bunch of little bitches." She otherwise had positive evaluations.

Richardson, who has taught in Pasco schools since 1974, said she had been advised not to talk about the situation.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Three Pasco teachers suspended over 'inappropriate behavior' toward students 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 9:23pm]
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