Hernando schools officials missed at least one flag that might have tipped them off to potential wrongdoing by a teacher who was arrested last week on sex charges.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander said he "didn't know of any previous complaints" regarding Nature Coast Technical High band director Timothy Brightbill, who remained in jail Monday on two charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
But little more than a year ago, Brightbill was reprimanded by his principal for posting inappropriate photos on his MySpace account.
"As we discussed in our conference, you are to deconstruct your MySpace account as soon as possible," wrote principal Margaret "Tizzy" Schoelles in an October 2007 note to the teacher.
"Specifically, I am asking that you remove the pictures we spoke about and consider removing Nature Coast Technical High School students from your friends list. You are directed to cease conduct related to the MySpace account immediately."
Brightbill, 42, was found lying on top of a 17-year-old girl about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday when the girl's mother arrived home early. Both were wearing only underwear. He confessed to performing sex acts on her that day, and also in November, according to the police report.
He was arrested and transported to the Hernando County Jail, where he remains behind bars in lieu of $20,000 bail. Officials were in the process of suspending him with pay, the first step in an internal review that could lead to suspension without pay or termination.
In her 2007 letter, Schoelles said Brightbill could be fired for keeping the photos up or engaging in similar conduct again. It was not clear from the letter what the MySpace photos depicted. Schoelles and Alexander did not respond to requests for comment on the reprimand.
School Board member Pat Fagan said he received an update Monday on the Brightbill case from business services director Heather Martin, but said she had not mentioned anything about a previous reprimand for inappropriate student contact.
"I would think that would definitely show a cause to be concerned," Fagan said, referring to the MySpace letter.
"It sounds to me like he had some contacts with younger students," he added. "We need to take these things more seriously in the future."
Brightbill's MySpace page was set to private this week, open only to his personal contacts. But his Facebook page featured the teacher posing shirtless following a sports event.
By several accounts, Brightbill was a model teacher and a rising star in the world of high school band directors.
He began his teaching career in the Pinellas County Schools in the fall of 1990, working for 15 years at Southside Fundamental, Pinellas Park and Thurgood Marshall middle schools. His personnel file showed no disciplinary actions, and he left the district of his own accord, said spokeswoman Andrea Zahn.
"He was an astonishingly good music teacher," said former Times editor Martin Dyckman, whose son was in the band at Southside. "I was consistently amazed at the results he got out of those kids."
Brightbill came to Hernando County Schools in 2006 with glowing recommendations from his supervisors in Pinellas and earned a positive evaluation from Schoelles in April 2007.
But on Oct. 29 of that year, she told him to take down his MySpace page, and put a letter to that effect in his personnel file.
Brightbill also received a formal reprimand last November for violating School Board policies on the handling of funds from the school's booster club.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.