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Jailed teacher fired before

By LETITIA STEIN and EMILY NIPPS
Published January 6, 2007


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TAMPA - A would-be English teacher, now facing felony assault and burglary changes, left a few things off his resume when he interviewed for a job at Bloomingdale High School.

For starters, there was the fact that he was fired from Lakewood High School in 2004, after getting into a fight with a student at the St. Petersburg school.

Hillsborough County school officials said they would have caught Robert W. Britt's lies before he was due to start teaching on Friday.

"They would have seen red flags and would have discovered what had happened," said Linda Cobbe, a schools spokeswoman.

She said Britt, 37, still needed to have his application processed before entering a classroom. He could have reported for the required vetting on Thursday.

Except for the fact that Britt was in jail.

Deputies arrested him on Wednesday night. They say Britt forced his way into Danny Beetem's Westchase townhome, which shared a wall with his own. Beetem said Britt's wife was there, visiting with neighbors.

Once inside, Britt pointed a loaded gun at Kim Joyce Tingley, another neighbor.

"What if my two daughters came out, and he had a gun?" asked Beetem, who is the person who called the police.

Nobody answered the door at Britt's home on Friday evening. He remained in jail on $21,000 bond.

After his arrest, Cobbe said, school officials spotted a potential warning in the fact that the Pinellas schools twice had requested to see his teaching certification.

Britt's resume listed his last teaching job in New Hampshire, not Pinellas, she said. Bloomingdale's principal called there to check. He was under the impression that Britt had been writing novels in recent years, Cobbe said.

Britt didn't disclose making headlines at Lakewood High in November 2004 for his involvement in a fight with a student.

At the time, Britt said the student reached for what looked like a sharp, metallic object. He said he "brushed against the side" of the student's hand when trying to kick away the object.

Britt, a former Marine, said the student retaliated by taking off his belt and striking the teacher in his face and shoulders. The student was charged with battery and taken to a juvenile assessment center.

The Pinellas School Board also fired Britt. He still was in his probationary period, so the board didn't have to cite a reason.

After seeing that Pinellas had requested his teaching certificates, Cobbe said, Hillsborough called across the bay to learn more. But Pinellas school offices were closed for winter break.

Britt would have had another problem if he had made it to the point of having his application processed in Hillsborough. His temporary teaching certification expired last June, Cobbe said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Letitia Stein can be reached at lstein@sptimes.com or 226-3440.

[Last modified January 6, 2007, 00:51:20]


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