Mannix About Manatee: Students, staff safety paramount

August 18, 2013 

Classes haven't even started for the Manatee County School District, but it's dealing with another crisis that could undermine improving student test scores and school grades and balancing a budget.

It strikes at the very core of its mission:

Maintaining the safety and security of its students and employees.

That point was driven home in grave fashion Thursday when the State Attorney's Office charged Bob Gagnon, the former principal at Manatee High School, and Gregg Faller and Matt Kane, his two former assistant principals, with felony counts of not reporting child abuse.

Debra Horne, the district's former investigator in the office of professional standards, was also charged.

This all stems from the prolonged investigation into the reported sordid behavior of Rod Frazier, who recently resigned as a Manatee parent liaison and assistant football coach.

• Inappropriate relationships with students.

• Calling female students out of class and into his office as a parent liaison for reasons unrelated to school.

• Inappropriately touching four female students and three female staffers.

• Pornographic images -- including that of former Manatee students -- on his school-issued computers, according to Bradenton police.

The state attorney charged Frazier with misdemeanors.

The other four got felonies.

What's that they say

about the coverup is worse than the crime?

And for what?

To protect Joe Kinnan's mighty football program?

Hurricanes' supporters are saying this sorry series of events had nothing to do with football. That Frazier's alleged transgressions took place in his capacity as a parent liaison.

OK.

But if it had been a regular teacher and not a football coach involved in this situation, would we still be talking about this?

Don't be naive.

That teacher would have been fired long ago.

It is shameful that not only students, but faculty and staff have been reluctant to come forward on this matter for fear of retribution.

Like losing one's job.

Such a culture needs to be changed.

Especially when it hides conduct the state attorney deems felonious.

The relationship between student and school staff -- teacher, coach, administrator -- is one that must not be violated. It is sacrosanct.

A football program is not.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.

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