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Science teacher's lessons could blow up in his face

Published Oct. 10, 2005

Teacher Terry Stout has managed to get many of his students interested in the wonders of science. But his classroom lessons have Pasco County school officials worried _ and poised to fire him.

School officials say that in science classes at Hudson High School, Stout taught students how to make bombs. All kinds of bombs.

In a recent letter to the School Board, the school district's director of instructional employee relations, Jim Davis, described in some detail why he thought the district should no longer pay Stout to shape young minds.

Among other things, Stout "provided students with specifics of how to make explosive devices such as a hydrogen cannon . . . and chlorine bombs."

Stout also advised students about "how to make cyanide" and told them that many of the necessary ingredients for the bombs and concoctions were readily available. Stout "also provided inappropriate examples of how his former students used the (information he provided them) in a destructive manner."

The letter listed one other area of instruction that school officials found objectionable. Upon learning that a female student had a frog, Stout explained to students "how he could cut the frog's throat, turn it inside out and watch it breathe."

"This is a guy we didn't feel needed to be around kids," said Pasco County School Superintendent Tom Weightman, who has recommended that the School Board suspend Stout without pay.

Stout could not be reached for comment.

Stout, who has taught for about 13 years, including seven years in Pasco, had been on extended medical leave for much of the past two years, Davis said. Weightman decided he did not want to extend the leave any longer, and Stout was notified that his leave would run out in late January.

When he received that notification, Stout decided to get back into the classroom. Since his return in late January, he has made quite an impression on students.

"His point of view is that he was trying to explain to kids that ifyou mix certain elements together you get a bad reaction," Davis said. "He said he told them these things (while) teaching the periodic table.

"I've been certified to teach science, and in all my years of school I've never had an instructor who taught us how to make explosives under the guise of teaching the periodic table."

Davis said Stout taught his physical science class to a group composed largely of 10th-graders. There is no evidence that any students in his most recent classes actually followed Stout's instructions and made a bomb or mutilated a frog.

But, Davis said, there were indications that some students were fascinated by the information and appeared to be "thinking about it."

Not all students were so enchanted, however. Davis said several students asked to transfer out of Stout's class.

"Maybe he wanted to make science more interesting," Davis said. "But that's not the way to do it."