MANATEE -- The State Attorney's Office will not formally charge a former Nolan Middle School substitute teacher with child abuse.
Kenneth Machol, 56, was arrested Dec. 12 on suspicion of child abuse after physically removing a student from a classroom following an exchange of words after the teacher expressed dissatisfaction with the student's work.
"Based on the facts of the case, as presented by the victim, they don't rise to the level of what case law requires for child abuse and child neglect," Assistant State Attorney Garrett Franzen said.
The prosecutor said he made the decision after interviewing the victim and father.
"The crime of child abuse requires that the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally inflicted physical or mental injury on the child, or that the defendant committed an act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child, or that the defendant encouraged another person to commit these acts," Franzen wrote in an interdepartmental memo citing state statute.
Law enforcement failed to interview any other student in the classroom at the time and the student did not sustain any injuries, including marks or bruises, according to his memo.
Machol's defense attorney Joe Campoli said he was pleased the charges were dropped.
"These charges are taken very seriously by the State Attorney's Office and they do a thorough investigation," Campoli said.
The investigation found no evidence of child abuse, he said.
"I do think in hindsight, Mr. Machol regrets the incident and feels it could have been better handled," Campoli said. "From a personal standpoint I thought this incident could have been handled internally by Nolan Middle School, without involving law enforcement."
Immediately following his arrest, Machol was dismissed and removed from the Manatee School District's substitute list. He was also informed via a letter he is no longer eligible to apply for any open positions.
"Because of this incident, a very good man was taken off the school district substitute list, and he remains off the list, and I am not sure what the status of that is," Campoli said. "Unfortunately, although the charges were dropped, the arrest doesn't go away."
Since taking the case, Campoli said Machol has received overwhelming support from community members outraged at the charges.
"Teachers and substitute teachers should have the ability to control the classroom setting," Campoli said. "If we take away teachers' ability to deal with disruptive classrooms, then the students run the classroom."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.