Manatee County teacher in trouble again

nalund@bradenton.comDecember 5, 2009 

BRADENTON — A teacher is on administrative leave for reported misconduct involving a Braden River Middle School student, according to records released Friday by the Manatee County School District.

Peggy Hill was suspended with pay after the Oct. 20 incident in which she allegedly jerked a chair out from underneath a male seventh-grade student, said school board attorney John Bowen.

According to a district report, the boy was not injured, only embarrassed. Seven students said they witnessed the incident, but Hill, 58, has denied the allegation.

Neither Hill nor her lawyer, Melissa Mihok, could be reached for comment Friday.

This is the second time Hill reportedly has used improper force with a student this year.

Hill, a Palmetto High School science teacher, had been reassigned to teach science at Braden River Middle while awaiting an administrative hearing for allegedly hitting a high school student in class for using profanity.

According to that administrative complaint, five or six students witnessed the May 4 slap, which left a red mark on the student’s face.

“None of the student witnesses corroborated Hill’s account of the incident and instead concurred with the victim’s statement,” wrote school district attorney Robert Shapiro in a complaint.

According to a district investigative report, the seventh-grade student told a school investigator that he was sitting in a chair in class leaning forward when Hill came up behind him and pulled the chair out from under him, causing him to fall.

“It didn’t hurt, but it kind of embarrassed me,” the boy said. “The kids in class laughed. I thought it was weird she did this.”

“Did she say anything after this incident?” asked the investigator.

“She said it was an accident or something like that,” the boy responded.

Other student witnesses in the class said Hill did not like the boy and was mad at him because he kept saying the word “sure,” according to the report.

One male witness said that about two weeks before the incident, he had his legs propped up on a chair.

“Ms. Hill put both hands on my legs and shook them and then pulled the chair out so that my legs went to the floor,” that student said.

An administrative hearing for the high school slapping incident had been set for Wednesday, but was postponed due to the latest incident.

School officials amended the first complaint to include the second reported incident, and Superintendent Tim McGonegal is seeking to have Hill fired.

Bowen said Hill, who has worked in the district since October 1997, has requested an administrative hearing.

During its next meeting, the Manatee County school board will decide whether to grant her one.

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