I-Team: Hillsborough school supervisors lacked oversight on substitute teachers who misbehave

I-Team prompted new policy change

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - Who's monitoring substitute teachers in your child's classroom?

The I-Team found a serious lack of accountability inside the Hillsborough County School District.   

Substitute teachers watching your children sometimes misbehave. When they do, the I-Team found no one at Hillsborough's School District Headquarters is paying attention to how often it happens, or how severe some cases may be.

"Oh no that's not cool!", one parent tells us.

"I think they should definitely keep better track of that," says another parent.

Administrators use what's called a do not use form when trying to remove substitute teachers from the district or classroom. If a substitute teacher does something inappropriate to where the principal doesn't want them back in the classroom, they fill it out, include the reason, and then send the form to Kelly Services, a third party company in charge of hiring and firing subs.

But the I-Team found once a principal sends off a do not use form, district supervisors haven't been keeping track of them. So we sat down with Superintendent Jeff Eakins to talk about it.

Reporter: "Can you sit here today and tell me how many forms have been issued and sent to Kelly Services?"
Eakins: "I can not tell you how many forms have been submitted to Kelly Services."

We sent the school district a records request asking for all do not use forms sent to Kelly Services. Eakins tells us, currently the only way for us to get those is to have 238 principals find them and submit them because they don't have them, and if we wanted to do that it was going to cost us more than $2,000 to find out.

Reporter: "Why can't you just get them directly from Kelly Services?"
Eakins: "That's a conversation we can take up with Kelly Services."

Apparently conversations haven't gone well because district officials say Kelly Services is refusing to give them the forms or a total number of forms they submitted. Even though Hillsborough School employees are the ones that filled out and sent the forms to them.

The lack of oversight at the district level has parents concerned.

"That's horrible," one parent says.

"I don't think that's right, the parents should know," another concerned parent says.

Reporter: "Does this leave room for error or potential cover ups amongst your administrators?"
Eakins: "Absolutely not. I'm very 100 percent confident in our administrators and the training that we provide."

He shouldn't be 100 percent confident after what we uncovered earlier this year.

A substitute teacher was accused of a sex offense, masturbating in class, and before that allowing students to play spin the bottle and give each other lap dances.

The school issued a do not use form and the sub was removed, but as we uncovered documents reveal the principal didn't first notify the school resource officer, or any of the parents, and kept nearly everyone in the dark. 

A case where no one above the principal was monitoring when a do not use form was submitted. Eakins responds by saying, "all of those kinds of things on the area of communication we feel we could've improved in that particular area."

The district was only able to find 5 examples of the forms.

One shows a sub told students to "shut up" and used a pocket knife to sharpen a pencil, it stated "students did not feel safe".

One states a sub put his hands around another students neck.

So how many of these forms really exist? We still don't know.

But we can tell you that during our previous investigation on the sub teacher accused of a sex offense, the district's chief of schools Harrison Peters told us, "we get accusations everyday that warrant removal of adults."

Following our records request Superintendent Jeff Eakins changed their policy. He's now making it where every time a do not use form is submitted, it also goes to district headquarters. He's also reminding principals to notify their area superintendents if a situation requires parent notification.   

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Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning Investigative Reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team. Do you have a story idea? Contact Jarrod on FacebookTwitter, or via email at jarrod.holbrook@wfts.com.

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