Bradenton teacher to fight job suspension

ataylor@bradenton.comJune 24, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Bashaw Elementary School teacher Michele Gabriele is fighting a 15-day suspension and a return to annual contract status that was recommended by Superintendent Tim McGonegal.

Gabriele was accused of asking an aide a volatile question around children -- “Can I kill a kid today?”

That question led to a month-long investigation in which district officials say the elementary school teacher tried to “intimidate or interfere with.” The allegations of investigation tampering and making the comment will be discussed Monday when school board members determine whether or not to approve that Gabriele’s case go to the Division of Administrative Hearings.

School staff attorney Scott Martin said Gabriele violated the district’s Code of Ethics, Principles of Professional Conduct and five other school policies. Those policies include making a reasonable effort to protect a student from harmful conditions, not exposing a student to unnecessary embarrassment and gross insubordination.

“Gabriele has also been cited with ... concerns pertaining to the treatment of students, the use of sarcasm with parents and students, making malicious statements about her supervisor to a parent, inappropriate use of technology during class time and failure to deliver assigned curriculum,” Martin said in the administrative complaint.

“My recommendation for your suspension without pay is based on the facts contained in the administrative complaint,” McGonegal said in a letter to Gabriele dated June 3.

Gabriele’s attorney, Melissa Mihok, was unavailable for comment Thursday. However, in Mihok’s legal request for a hearing, she said the allegations outlined in Martin’s administrative complaint “are disputed issues.”

Mihok added that her client “did not violate any school board policy or other applicable policy, rule or statute.”

In the district’s complaint, Martin says Gabriele was “apparently frustrated with students, (and) asked teacher aide Brenda Twinem while in the presence of her students ‘Can I kill a kid today?’ ”

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