Appeal end in sight for Manatee High assistant principal fighting for job

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 25, 2014 

MANATEE -- Testimony is expected to conclude Wednesday in the appeal by former Manatee High School assistant principal Matthew Kane of the Manatee County School District decision to fire him.

Kane lost his job for actions in connection with the case of former football assistant and parent liaison Roderick Frazier, who later took a plea deal to settle charges he inappropriately touched students.

Kane, former Manatee High Principal Robert Gagnon and assistant principal Gregg Faller were all placed on unpaid leave pending termination last October after a vote by the Manatee County School Board. The three were accused of violating district policy in handling allegations against Frazier.

Last week, Kane and Gagnon were found not guilty of one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse and one felony count of failing to report child abuse.

Faller, former Manatee High School assistant principal, was convicted of one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse and cleared of the felony count of failing to report child abuse.

Frazier pleaded no contest to three counts of battery for inappropriately touching students, faculty or staff and three counts of interfering with attendance of a student. As part of the deal, the state agreed to drop four additional battery charges.

Investigators claim Kane, Gagnon and Faller were all aware of the abuse allegations but failed to report them to the child abuse hotline as legally required.

All three are appealing school district terminations. Gagnon and Faller are awaiting decisions already.

Kane's hearing was continued until now after two scheduled days of testimony in April failed to culminate in a decision.

Kane testified Tuesday he had difficulty remembering what he was told about Frazier's questionable behavior.

"I want to remember things," Kane said. "From the very beginning of this with the (Bradenton Police

Department), I wanted to remember so I could get to the bottom of this."

Kane said the only incident he remembers was in February 2012 when he was interim principal at Manatee High. He testified then-district investigator Debra Horne called him about an anonymous complaint received at the district Office of Professional Standards about Frazier riding in golf carts with students.

"Ms. Horne called me with a vague report so I had no details to go by," Kane said.

Kane said he went to Frazier with the complaint and told him it didn't look right.

"I talked to him and told him to stay off the golf carts," Kane said. "I told him I'm not accusing you of anything but act professional."

Kane said he did not recall an incident Manatee High teacher Jacqueline Peebles previously testified she reported to him about seeing a student sitting on Frazier's lap feeding him cake in his office. Peebles said she yelled and made the student get off his lap.

"Ms. Peebles never came to me in the manner she describes," Kane said. "We wouldn't be here right now if she would have come to me in the manner she describes."

The student, who is not being named as a minor, testified about the cake-eating incident. She said Peebles walked in, looked shocked and walked out.

Kane said he also did not remember an incident parent liaison Stephen Gulash testified about seeing Frazier shove a water bottle between the same student's legs. Gulash said he reported it to Kane.

Gulash also admitted to lying early in the investigation by saying a parent and student had witnessed it in order for Horne to take the allegation seriously, he said. The witnesses were his wife and child and he, too, saw it, he said Tuesday.

The student, however said although similar situations had occurred, she did not remember the one Gulash described.

Two former students took the stand for the defense Tuesday after the school board concluded its case.

One student testified Frazier was all over her, groping her when she ran into him at a local bar where she was drinking while still a student at Manatee High.

"He did offer to buy me a drink," she said. "And he did almost kiss me."

She denied, however, Frazier pressed himself against her as Peebles testified she told Kane.

Another student testified she considers Frazier a friend. She denied, however, having a conversation with Frazier about a lingerie party, which another student testified to hearing.

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

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