I-Team: Parents furious after school fails to notify them of a sex offense investigation

Substitute teacher accused of sex offense
Posted at 11:29 PM, Apr 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-27 12:41:22-04

Angry parents said Hillsborough School officials never notified them when a possible sex offense happened inside the classroom. And now parents are raising serious questions about how school administrators handled the investigation.

"It's just not good," one parent said.

"I'm upset because the school didn't notify me," said another.

One mother in tears told us, "Well it's just frustrating because nobody is listening."

These 3 parents and more than a dozen others we spoke to are frustrated after a substitute teacher is accused of a possible sex offense at Shields Middle School. We're protecting their identities so the children can not be identified.




One mother said she's disgusted and goes on to say, "The school seems like they're just trying to brush everything under the rug." 

According to the police report, on February 17 several middle school students believed their substitute teacher may have been inappropriately touching himself behind his desk in the back of the classroom. A student captured video on a cell phone. Movement could be seen, but it's unclear for sure what was happening.

In written statements to deputies, several students claimed they saw him masturbating. Two students told deputies they saw his "belt unbuckled and his zipper down."

One student we spoke to, while the parent was present, reported to HCSO he saw a naked woman on the teacher's cell phone, and that "his erection was also visible"

"The more we started paying attention the more people we started letting know about it. And the more we started realizing what he was doing," the student told us.

The school district removed the substitute teacher and banned him from teaching at Hillsborough County Schools. But the I-Team discovered two big problems, parents said they never notified them or the sheriff's office.

 "They did more than drop the ball," said a father.




We spoke with Harrison Peters who is the district's Chief of Schools and is in charge of all schools and area superintendents.

Reporter: "There was a possible sex offense investigation going on, you remove the substitute and parents weren't notified. How is that possible?"
Peters: "So yeah we didn't look at it that way. We looked at it that there was an accusation of an adult."
Reporter: "A possible sex offense."
Peters: "That's the label that you're attaching."
Reporter: "That's what it says in the police report...possible sex offense."
Peters: "And that's fair as well what we've done is we made sure that we followed all of our safety procedures, we removed the adult immediately and we launched an investigation through the police department."

Peters said they immediately notified the sheriff's deputy based at the school, the SRO. But according to the sheriff's report, it was a parent who notified him. And that was days after the school said they first knew about the incident and had already removed the teacher.

The I-Team spoke to that parent. She said he was surprised when she told him, "I said this man needs to be arrested something needs to happen. And he had no idea what I was talking about."

When we followed up and asked, "The deputy had no idea?" She replied, "No idea."

When we asked Peters for proof school officials did first notify the SRO he replied, "Proof how? What I can share with you is that's the normal procedure."

Peters said all parents were notified.

"The majority of the parents were very supportive they understood", Peters told us.

But we called 20 parents whose children provided written statements to the sheriffs office and everyone we spoke with had no idea this happened.

Peters: "That process could've been much better."
Reporter: "Could've been much better? It didn't happen sir." 
Peters: "Yeah so I don't have that evidence that it didn't happen. What I have is the principal reached out to parents in the school, reached out to parents in that classroom."
Reporter: "What if I told you that I personally called all the parents in the police report and they were learning about it for the first time from me.
Peters: "Ummhm (pause) I mean that could be fair that still doesn't mean the principal didn't reach out to each parent."
Reporter: "You're saying parents were supportive of how she handled it. Which parents because I don't know one who was notified?"
Peters: I don't have a list of parents. But I can tell you just as you have your Intel we've got our Intel and I trust the principal reached out to those parents and had a conversation.

His answers aren't sitting well with parents.

"Something has to happen with the staff at the school because they should have let us know," said one concerned mother.

Another parent said, "I know that I never received any letter, any phone call, anything outside of me contacting the school."

After we told one father he reached out to the school's administrators, "I contacted the school asked about the incident and no one ever got back to me."

Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies said at this time there is not enough evidence to make an arrest.

Parents say regardless, the school should've notified them, so they could have a conversation with their children about what they may have seen.

A student told us the school never offered counseling or classroom discussions.


Hillsborough County School District officials have released notes of a timeline they say were written by an administrator at Beth Shields Middle School.

The notes are not time stamped, dated, or signed.

School district officials could not provide a way to authenticate or prove when the notes were written.
When we asked for an email to prove who the notes were written by, and when the administrator wrote them, they could not provide further documents.

Click here to view the documents.

Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning Investigative Reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team.
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