Teacher fights for job after she's accused of being drunk at work

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - A Hernando County teacher Erin Cougill is fighting to keep her job after accusations arose that she came to work drunk.

She told ABC Action News her medical conditions are to blame.

The incident occurred Dec. 11, and Cougill has been on paid leave ever since.

"I don't have a lot of faith in the fact that I'm going to be treated fairly," said Cougill, standing outside her home Friday.

Cougill was teaching at West Hernando Middle School in December when the assistant principal said she was unsteady on her feet and slurring her words, according to a report.

The report says tests showed she was "well above" the legal limit of .08. But she blames the high numbers on her diabetes.

Because of specific medical conditions, she said, her body does not process alcohol as quickly as it should.

And while she denies drinking at work, she acknowledged she had been drinking with friends the night before.

"I had two 6 ounce glasses of French wine and two shots of scotch," she said.

She stopped drinking before midnight.

According to a report from the assistant principal on the day of the incident, Cougill was also seen taking a plastic cup from her classroom and locking herself in a restroom.

The assistant principal reported the restroom smelled like alcohol, though a school resource officer could not verify that.

Cougill said the cup was filled with iced tea.

"I did not lock myself in the bathroom," Cougill said. "I shut the door because they were breathing down my neck and I felt pretty intimidated."

She regrets not calling out.

"I know now that I should have called and said, 'Look I'm not going to come in.' It would have been a lot less traumatic," Cougill said.

The school board will meet Tuesday to decide whether Cougill will be fired.

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