TRINITY — A Mitchell High School science teacher who has been reprimanded several times for making inappropriate comments in class now faces a five-day unpaid suspension for "rude and disrespectful" treatment of her students.
Brenda Braitling, 50, is accused of screaming at her students in late February and upsetting one student by saying the girl was very "chatty," just like her mother, who had died.
She told district investigators that she either did not make the comments or could not remember them, according to records. Braitling was recovering from a surgery on Thursday and said she could not speak on the phone. She did not respond to a request for comment sent by email.
Asked why the teacher's pattern of behavior did not lead to termination at this point, Pasco schools spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said the district uses a system of "progressive discipline."
"Last time, they just gave her a warning," Romagnoli said. "We are hopeful she will improve her skills."
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended the five-day suspension. The School Board will consider the case on Tuesday. Braitling has not requested a hearing with the board, but still could ask for reconsideration by the superintendent.
This is not the first time that students have complained about Braitling, who has worked for Pasco schools since 2004.
In May 2009, she received a formal reprimand after stating in class that people with disabilities should be sterilized and are a menace to society, and for telling students to "shut up" during class, where she also used profanities, including the f-word, according to school district records.
In February 2011, she received an informal letter of reprimand for telling one student that another student should undergo drug testing, amid other "inappropriate" comments. Later that same year, she received a letter from the school's administration taking issue with her calling students names and belittling them.
These past incidents and others have led to warnings to deal more professionally with students.
But, according to Mitchell High leaders, Braitling did not improve.
Most recently, district records say, "multiple individuals" reported that Braitling screamed across the room to a student, "I have been freaking telling you this for an hour," and that she told students to not take her yelling personally as she "rip(s) their chest out."
She is accused of saying that she puts the noisiest students by the door because they never quiet down and it's easier to kick them out from there. Braitling additionally disturbed the one student with the statements about her mother.
"Despite these warnings and administrators' attempt to coach you to correct your behavior, you continue to behave inappropriately," Fiorentino wrote in a March 28 formal reprimand letter. "After reviewing the information provided to me, I conclude that your actions constitute misconduct in office."
In addition to serving a five-day unpaid suspension, Braitling is recommended to complete four courses on classroom management. Fiorentino also has reminded Braitling that her interactions with students, other employees and members of the school community "should be appropriate both in perception and reality."
Another incident could result in dismissal.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.