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Pasco teacher found drunk at school may be fired

LAND O'LAKES — A Pasco County middle school language arts teacher with an otherwise strong record could lose her job after being drunk at school for a second time in three years.

Kylene Nelson, 42, was taken into protective custody by Pasco sheriff's deputies on Wednesday after she threatened to kill herself. According to sheriff's reports, she had been found reeking of alcohol during the school day and, after a drug and alcohol test, she ran from the Rushe Middle School campus to a nearby recreation center, where she passed out.

When she came to, Nelson told deputy Joseph Stimac, "Just leave me alone. I want to die," according to Stimac's report. "Just let me kill myself."

A test found her blood-alcohol level to be 0.26, more than three times the level at which Florida law presumes impairment. Nelson, who initially denied having been drinking, told Stimac that she had consumed an entire bottle of vodka.

He took Nelson to the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute "for her safety," the report said. Nelson could not be reached for comment.

Nelson did not return to school the rest of the week. Assistant superintendent Renalia DuBose said Nelson is on leave pending a district investigation, which began Friday morning. The district has had no contact with her.

"We want to ask kids what they saw, what happened," DuBose said. "You never know. … You need to know what happened while it's still fresh in everyone's minds."

She said Nelson had not been fired.

"We don't automatically fire people," DuBose said. "We take a recommendation to the board."

A recommendation to dismiss Nelson for a similar situation nearly came 21/2 years ago.

School district records show that on Oct. 26, 2006, Nelson did not show up for her third period class at Seven Springs Middle School. The school's resource officer and assistant principals found her asleep in her car, surrounded by bottles of wine.

After being awakened, the resource officer found that Nelson showed "obvious signs of intoxication, and [Nelson] said to him, 'I'm wasted.'?"

Further investigation at that time revealed that Nelson had gotten drunk while at school.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino told Nelson in a Nov. 8, 2006, letter that her inclination was to fire the teacher.

"However, after speaking with you … and considering your many years of service as a teacher, in lieu of a recommendation for your dismissal, I am willing to give you the opportunity to remain employed," Fiorentino wrote.

The conditions included taking a leave of absence through May 2007, completing a substance abuse program and agreeing not to return to Seven Springs Middle.

District records show that Nelson completed the substance abuse program and accepted a transfer to Rushe Middle in June 2007.

According to the latest Sheriff's Office report, Nelson said she had been sober for two years.

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.

Pasco teacher found drunk at school may be fired 03/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 23, 2009 9:38am]
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