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After second breakdown at school, Pasco teacher retires

LAND O'LAKES — Patti Withers, the Pasco County school teacher whose personal troubles led to a high-profile fight over her job several years ago, has retired after 13 years with the district.

Withers, 54, has been on leave since last fall, when she was taken into protective custody for attempting to hurt herself while teaching at Wiregrass Ranch High School.

She recently was classified as an unpaid teacher on assignment.

She transferred to Wiregrass Ranch after the School Board and superintendent Heather Fiorentino had a very public disagreement over how to treat Withers following her 2006 suicide attempt at Pasco High School.

Fiorentino sought to fire Withers for committing an "immoral act" on school grounds, while the board deemed it more appropriate to keep Withers on the staff while she underwent counseling.

The Florida Education Practices Commission denied a recommendation to take Withers' teaching certificate, although it placed her on two years' probation in 2009.

At that time, records indicated that Withers was battling a range of health issues including depression, high blood pressure and the onset of Parkinson's disease.