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Zephyrhills teacher faces firing over contact with student

ZEPHYRHILLS — Zephyrhills High School math teacher John A. Patrick invited one of his female students to his home May 23 to babysit his young daughter. Except when the teen arrived at 10 p.m., the daughter wasn't there.

Patrick, 47, invited the student inside anyway, telling the girl about his sinus pressure and how a massage might help, the girl told school officials the next day. Then Patrick went off to his bedroom and "returned wearing tight gray silky shorts or boxers," the Pasco school district report says. He gave the girl a tour of his daughter's bedroom and offered to pay her for her time if she "stayed and hung out."

She used her iPhone "until she could muster the courage to leave," the report said. Patrick hugged her as she started to leave, the report states, and he was sexually aroused at the time. She turned down a ride home.

Principal Steve Van Gorden placed Patrick on leave the next day. Now superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended Patrick's termination.

"Mr. Patrick, your actions show extremely poor judgment and concern me for several reasons," Fiorentino wrote in her letter recommending his firing. "You appear to have no understanding of the appropriate boundary between a student and teacher."

Patrick is one of three cases the Pasco School Board will consider today dealing with inappropriate activities with students or former students.

Also up for termination is Land O'Lakes High maintenance worker Rhett Giddins, 53, who is accused of walking into a girls locker room two times while girls were changing.

Irvin Education Center teacher Philip M. Young, 55, faces unpaid suspension while Dade City police investigate allegations that he had oral sex with a former male student who is 18 and has mental disabilities. Young was arrested July 15 on a charge of sexual battery on a mentally ill victim after a hot tub encounter that Young told police was consensual.

None of the three men could be reached for comment.

According to district files, Patrick said his female student had been hounding him to babysit. Yet he told employee relations investigators that he knew earlier that day he would not need a babysitter — his daughter was staying with his ex-wife — but he did not make any effort to cancel the appointment.

He told the investigators that he never implied that the student needed to stay at his home to be paid for her babysitting time. He said he told the girl that he would never allow a student to give him a massage.

Patrick told investigators he gave the girl a very brief tour of his home because she said it was nice. He denied being sexually aroused at her presence. He said he had heard the student had a crush on him.

During additional reviews, district officials discovered that Patrick had been texting and sending Facebook messages to this student and some others. When they questioned the appropriateness of such relationships, Patrick "admitted that (he) allowed (his) relationship with this student to get too personal but maintained that (he) stood by (his) actions and that (he) 'may have shown bad judgment,' " according to Fiorentino's letter.

She cited several state codes and district policies she believes he violated, and gave him 15 days to request an appeal of her recommendation. Patrick has made no such request.

In the Land O'Lakes High case, Giddins challenged assertions that he went into the girls locker room and, according to documents, told investigators to look at video that was recorded from cameras facing the locker room entrance.

"The video shows that you walked into the girls locker room two (2) times while girls were still inside," Fiorentino wrote to Giddins.

First, it showed him outside the room watching girls enter, she stated. Then he walked in.

A moment later, he walked out and stood right outside the door, leaving the door wedged open.

"Before any of the girls exited the locker room, you walked back inside and did not leave until quite some time afterwards," she wrote.

Fiorentino called Giddins' actions "unprofessional and inappropriate." She has recommended his firing.

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

Zephyrhills teacher faces firing over contact with student 07/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 25, 2011 9:35pm]
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