Former Manatee High assistant principal hearing delayed to June

jdeleon@bradenton.comMay 1, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Matthew Kane, former Manatee High School assistant principal, attends an administrative hearing at the Manatee County Judicial Center in Bradenton on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

MANATEE -- Court testimony that began this week as Manatee County School District officials try to fire suspended Manatee High School assistant principal Matthew Kane will continue in June.

Kane appealed the Manatee County District School Board decision in October to place him on unpaid leave pending termination after criminal charges were brought against him in connection with the Roderick Frazier case.

Frazier pleaded no contest Wednesday to three counts of battery for inappropriately touching students, faculty or staff as well as three counts of interfering with attendance of a student. As part of the deal, the state agreed

to drop four additional battery charges.

Investigators say Kane, along with former Manatee High Principal Robert Gagnon and former assistant principal Gregg Faller, were all aware of the allegations but never reported them to the child abuse hotline.

Testimony will continue at 9:30 a.m. June 24 via video conference after attorneys were unable to complete questioning witnesses during a two-day hearing this week.

Manatee High School teacher Jacqueline Peebles testified Wednesday about Frazier's inappropriate behavior. Peebles testified she took her concerns to school administrators after witnessing a student sitting on Frazier's lap and feeding him cake.

She had broken up a fight and taken the two students to the discipline office, she said.

"Unfortunately, without knocking, I opened the door not thinking it would be a problem because he was with a student," Peebles said. "But when I opened the door I saw (her) sitting across his lap holding a plate of cake and with a little plastic fork feeding him cake."

The distraught teacher said she grew angry and demanded to know what was going on. She also told the girl to get off his lap, she said.

Peebles said she went home without talking to Gagnon or Kane. The next day, however, she went to Kane and described the incident in detail, she said.

"I don't know what it means. It could mean nothing or it could mean a lot, but I thought I should tell you," she said she told Kane. "I recall that he said 'I will talk to him.' "

Peebles testified she then assumed Kane had addressed the issue.

"After I met with Mr. Kane and mentioned it, my relationship with Mr. Frazier changed," Peebles said. "Within a day or two of my speaking to Mr. Kane, Mr. Frazier no longer handled my referrals or acknowledged me in the hallways. So I believed Mr. Kane must have said something to Mr. Frazier, and Mr. Frazier's behavior changed for the better."

Gagnon also took the stand.

School district attorney Terry Harmon questioned Gagnon about whether he confirmed with another Manatee High School teacher he had taken her concerns about Frazier to Kane.

"I don't know if I told her I spoke to Mr. Kane," Gagnon said. "But I did talk to Mr. Kane, and Mr. Kane did look into it."

In June, testimony is expected from Kane, school district investigator Troy Pumphrey and Stephen Gulash, a parent liaison at Manatee High.

Kane, Faller and Gagnon have each been charged with failing to report allegations of child abuse to a state hotline and lying to police. They are all fighting the school district attempt to fire them.

They are scheduled to stand trial starting June 16.

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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