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Oak Park student arrested; educators might face charges

Two teachers encouraged a student fight and the principal impeded an arrest, deputies say.

By JUSTIN GEORGE, Times Staff Writer
Published September 22, 2007


PINELLAS PARK -- Two Oak Park School teachers face possible child abuse charges and the principal may be prosecuted for obstruction.

Authorities said the teachers encouraged a student fight, and the principal impeded an arrest.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office recommended bringing charges after a parent complained to deputies Thursday about a student fight.

Deputies say the incident began about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday when some 14 and 15-year-old students disrupted a class.

One made a remark that made a teacher cry. She left, and Bryant L. Alexander, 35, another teacher, came to restore order. Alexander got two students, ages 16 and 17, from another class and sat in the back as the older boys berated the younger students, authorities said.

Teacher Roslyn Holloway, 47, stood outside the class door. Both Alexander and Holloway did not intervene as the 16-year-old pushed several students from their seats and, in at least one case, slapped one in the back of the head, sheriff's officials said.

This went on for about 30 minutes until school was dismissed, authorities said.

Deputies found probable cause to arrest the 16-year-old, whose named authorities withheld, on misdemeanor assault and battery charges. And they referred the teachers to the State Attorney's Office for consideration of a child abuse charge.

Both teachers deny the allegations, authorities said.

Friday, a supervisor for Pinellas County school resource officers met Oak Park principal Joseph Milana in Clearwater and told him of the impending student arrest and the referrals made to prosecutors.

Milana returned to school and had a staff member drive the 16-year-old suspect home, preventing his arrest, deputies said.

"Deputies say this unexpected action by Milana impeded their investigation," a Sheriff's Office statement said, "and his actions will be referred to the State Attorney's Office for consideration of an obstruction charge."

Deputies eventually took the teenager from his St. Petersburg home to the Pinellas County Juvenile Assessment Center.

Pinellas County contracts with Community Education Partners, a Tennessee firm, to operate Oak Park, which provides academic intervention programs for about 400 secondary students.

The school helps low-performing and disruptive students, teaching them time management, goal setting and manners, along with core subjects. Students stay two semesters before returning to regular schools.

Pinellas School spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said CEP has suspended all three faculty members while the case is being investigated.

"It's premature to even speculate on the situation until Pinellas County schools is fully aware of all the facts of the investigation," Zahn said.

On Monday, Zahn said, an assistant principal from a Pinellas high school will be assigned to Oak Park, and other district personnel will be on site.