Manatee High: A Reminder for Us All

Pop quiz: When a child’s welfare is in question and you suspect abuse, what do you do?

a)    Conduct your own internal investigation to determine what is going on

b)   Report your suspicions to DCF

c)    Nothing

The correct and only answer is “B.” Why? Because of Lauren’s Kids’ work with the Florida Legislature to strengthen our state’s mandatory abuse reporting law, Floridians now have both a moral and legal responsibility to report suspected abuse to DCF. You don’t wait…you don’t weigh your options…you don’t second-guess…you don’t conduct your own investigation to be sure…and you definitely don’t “burry your head in the sand” so a potential child predator can coach your high school football team to a championship win. You report the suspected abuse and let the experts conduct an investigation.

In a September 9 blog post, we told you about a case unfolding in Bradenton involving former Manatee High School assistant football coach Rod Frazier. Frazier, who recently resigned following accusations he groped female students and faculty, has been charged for his inappropriate and unacceptable sexual conduct.

Situations like this are difficult enough to stomach. But the shock of this situation was amplified when information surfaced showing that school administrators in fact knew about the allegations against Frazier and did little in response.

Not only did school administrators “burry your head in the sand,” effectively allowing innocent Bradenton-area students to be preyed on by a school employee in hallways that are supposed to be safe, but they did so in part to protect the school’s football legacy.

During the school’s half-hearted internal investigation, the Manatee High principal reportedly instructed the district investigator to hurry things along because, “there (was) a football game Friday night and because of the high profile of Manatee, (Frazier’s) presence would be missed.”

Since we last brought you an update, the Manatee County School Board has recommended five administrators be terminated for not reporting allegations of Frazier’s conduct. These administrators include:

  • An assistant superintendent and former Manatee High School principal
  • Two former Manatee High assistant principals that have since been transferred to other area high schools
  • A former investigator in the Office of Professional Standards and current assistant principal
  • A former assistant superintendent and current staff attorney

Manatee County Schools Superintendent Rick Mills released the following statement on this recommendation, reinforcing the need to report suspected abuse:

All employees of this District are expected to make students their primary professional concern.  Moreover, as leaders, district administrators have a paramount responsibility to meet the expectations of providing a safe and secure environment for students and staff. 

Unfortunately, the findings of the Frazier investigation reflect that these administrators failed to fulfill these obligations; causing me to lose all confidence in their abilities to serve as administrators in this District. I further found that just cause exists to terminate their employment.

The District remains vigilant in ensuring the safety of all students and employees and has already taken steps to prevent these issues from arising again in the future.  Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, the District mandated that more than 5,000 employees attend a course in Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. 

Moving forward, I want to emphasize that all employees of this District are required to make every reasonable effort to protect students from conditions harmful to learning and their safety.  It is incumbent upon all employees to share any concerns they might have in this area with fellow employees, administrators, local law enforcement, and the Florida Department of Children and Families.  Employees are also required to report suspected child abuse to the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Florida Abuse Hotline (1-800-962-2873, TDD 1-800-453-5145).”

Superintendent Rick Mills and the Manatee County School District clearly understand the gravity of this situation and the fact that it is essential – morally and legally – to report suspected abuse of any kind. This district is doing the right thing in making children their priority and not other things such as reputation of school athletics, as Penn State and others have done before them.

The Florida Legislature passed the toughest mandatory reporting law in the nation almost two years ago for a clear reason: to put our children first and keep our children safe. This is a strong and clear example of what they intended. Children first. Report suspected abuse.