Zero tolerance for bad adult behavior with students

June 20, 2014 

The judicial decisions in the scandal that enveloped Manatee High School over suspicions of failing to report child abuse have been rendered. Two of the three central figures in this week's criminal trial won acquittals while the other was found guilty of a misdemeanor.

The case surrounding accusations about former assistant football coach Rod Frazier's treatment of students and the administrative failure to effectively and quickly deal with complaints should teach this community one lesson.

A corporate culture that downplays outrageous behavior by adults in charge of youngsters cannot be tolerated. When accusations arise, they must be vigorously and thoroughly investigated -- and, in the case of abuse allegations, reported to the state hotline immediately.

None of that occurred in the Frazier case.

Regardless of all the specifics in the legal proceedings, this cannot be denied. There is ample evidence of wrongdoing, first and foremost Frazier's acceptance of a no-contest plea to four counts of battery, two counts of interfering with a student's attendance and charges of improperly touching Manatee High students and staff.

There was also ample evidence that top administrators received reports of Frazier's conduct.

On Wednesday, Judge Peter Dubensky determined that did not constitute criminality in violation of the state's abuse reporting requirement, except in one case, and we respect his decision.

Former Manatee High principal Bob Gagnon and assistant principal Matthew Kane won acquittals while another former assistant principal, Gregg Faller, was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspicions of child abuse by Frazier.

The Bradenton Police Department investigated the case and issued reports to the state attorney's office, which found probable cause to pursue charges. The Manatee County school district did not prosecute this case.

The district cannot allow any employee to breach the public trust, as policies and procedures spell out. One can only wonder whether school system employees need more detailed instruction on state laws and district policies.

The failings in the Frazier case expose a permissive culture with misplaced values, as the district's meager two-day investigation in November 2012 reveals. Not a single student was interviewed before the probe was cut short, an appalling lack of moral authority and responsibility.

That culture has been changing under Superintendent Rick Mills and school board members dedicated to improving district ethics and culture.

The community must be confident that the school system is moving forward -- in one direction, united in the education of the next generations.

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