9 Investigates discipline of central Florida teachers



ORLANDO, Fla. - Most teachers do a great job in the classroom, but 9 Investigates uncovered records showing hundreds of teachers have been disciplined by the state.
Investigative reporter Daralene Jones spent more than a month reviewing the reports and found incidents of theft and abuse and even examples of teachers helping students cheat on tests.
Eyewitness News first showed viewers video in June in which a Marion County teacher grabbed a 10-year-old autistic student by the wrists and slammed him to the floor repeatedly. She was never criminally charged. But the state is investigating whether she can keep her license.
“Her goal was to break him,” said the victim’s mother, Uvonda Hill. “(It) was to let him know that she was in charge in her classroom.”
That case sparked 9 Investigates to review just how often the state disciplines teachers for bad behavior -- behavior such as showing up for work drunk or high on cocaine or stealing school equipment. 
Meredith Witt, an Oveido High School teacher, allowed students to get drunk -- and drive her car, which they crashed, according to reports.
“I don't think anybody in the public wants to see teachers committing incidences and crimes,” said Diana Moore, the Orange County Teachers Union President.
In the nearly 300 suspension and revocation cases that Jones reviewed, most of the teachers were involved in some kind of sexual misconduct with students.
For example, James Stafford texted a 13-year-old student at Corner Lake Middle School in Orlando and asked, the report said, "If she would consider sex with a teacher."
“What are you all doing to make sure these type of teachers don't end up in the classroom?” Jones asked Moore.
“We protect their due process,” Moore responded. “We believe the people doing the hiring and observing, which would be the district, should be monitoring these things. "
Attorney Charles Smith has sued the Osceola County School District over a teacher’s bad behavior.
“There have been some statutory changes which have allowed getting rid of teachers a little more easy,” Smith said.
Still, Jones found in some cases it was years before the state took action -- even after teachers were fired -- leaving the door open for the educators to reapply in other districts.
“It should be a faster process, but it should definitely be a due process,” Moore told Jones.