Education

Manatee principal made 'blatantly false' statements to get accused sex offender a job, superintendent says

Quentin Peterson
Quentin Peterson

Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene said Eddie Hundley, the principal of Lincoln Memorial Middle School, made "false and inaccurate" statements when he helped secure a new teaching job for Quentin Peterson, who is now facing criminal investigations in both Manatee and Sarasota counties.

In September 2017, Peterson resigned from his teaching position at Lincoln Memorial as investigators accused him of having sex with a former student. Hundley recommended Peterson for a teaching job weeks later, helping him land a job at Booker High School in Sarasota.

Hundley and Peterson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hundley filled out the first reference form on Sept. 22, 2017, listing all of Peterson's skill sets as "superior."

"Mr. Peterson was under investigation for having sexual relations with a student and that fact was personally known to you," Greene said in a letter of reprimand dated May 2. "You also indicated that you knew of no reason why he could not work with children. This was blatantly false."

Sarasota County Schools hired Peterson as a substitute teacher before he was later hired as a full-time math teacher. His hiring followed a second recommendation from his former boss.

When contacted by the district on Feb. 23, Hundley said his former employee was "Great — always organized." He also said relocation caused Peterson to leave Lincoln Memorial, and that he was recommended for continued employment.

"Mr. Peterson was not recommended for reemployment," the reprimand letter states. "Mr. Peterson resigned and agreed never to seek reemployment with the School District of Manatee County."

"Your statement was blatantly false," Greene added, referencing Hundley's statement that Peterson was never disciplined.

The investigation against Peterson came to a head on April 24, when police arrested him on charges of unlawful sexual act with a minor and possession of child pornography. However, according to school officials in Sarasota, the damage may already be done.

Booker High conducted an internal investigation and found "alleged accusations from students," Superintendent Todd Bowden said at a May 1 school board meeting, reading from a prepared statement.

Bowden said his district would improve its hiring practices, adding that false recommendations helped Peterson get a job. "Previous investigations" were not disclosed in those recommendations, he said.

Peterson was accused of touching young girls on three occasions, twice as a teacher at Lincoln Memorial, and once while he was a college student. Hundley knew of the investigations, according to records from the school district and Palmetto Police Department.

Police deemed one case unsubstantiated, and officers dropper another case due to lack of evidence. They recommended a charge of battery in one case, but the State Attorney's Office decided not to pursue the charge.

A detective at the Sarasota Police Department is investigating new allegations, Bowden said, and the district fired Peterson.

"Based on new information we have recently learned, we hired a teacher that had no business being in a classroom or among our young people," Bowden said.

Peterson is currently free on a $50,000 bond.

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