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    Teacher in video chooses to retire

    The man left to spare Oak Grove Middle School further embarrassment over the tape's content, school officials say.

    By MONIQUE FIELDS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2001


    An Oak Grove Middle School teacher has chosen to retire after at least five students at the school viewed a videotape of him masturbating.

    Bernard G. Tschiderer, 48, told district officials on Wednesday that he would retire, said Jackie Spoto, staff attorney for the school district.

    Yearbook students filming scenes for a school project last week rewound a tape they had borrowed from Tschiderer, officials said. When they played the tape, they found their images -- and a couple they hadn't recorded.

    The first was a short clip of Tschiderer reclining on a bed, wearing a pair of boxers, with a cat curled on his lap, said Michael Bessette, an administrator in the district's office of professional standards.

    The second showed a nude Tschiderer masturbating, Bessette said.

    The students reported the matter to a school guidance counselor on Friday and prompted a school investigation. Tschiderer was placed on paid administrative leave Saturday.

    "Teachers do have a responsibility to make a reasonable effort to protect students from harm," Spoto said.

    The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has begun investigating whether Tschiderer violated a Florida statute that says it is unlawful to "knowingly sell, rent, loan, give away, distribute, transmit or show obscene material to a minor," said spokeswoman Marianne Pasha. Deputies plan to give their information to the state attorney's office to see if charges are warranted. A violation of the law is a third-degree felony.

    Tschiderer could not be reached for commment.

    He has cooperated with sheriff's deputies and provided them with more videotapes. He told deputies that the contents of the tape were at least a year old, and he thought the tape had been erased because it had been rewound, Pasha said.

    The only blemish in the computer teacher's personnel file was a written warning he received for accepting a free airplane ticket from a computer company in 1996 to attend a workshop. The ticket was returned, and he paid for the trip, Bessette said.

    School officials said Tschiderer showed remorse for bringing the tape to school and sought to retire from his teaching position, which paid $42,600 a year, because he wanted to spare the school any further embarrassment.

    Principal Patricia Browne sent a note home with students Wednesday that informed their parents that a teacher had brought an inappropriate video to the school and that it had been viewed by some students.

    "This is a sad and unfortunate occurrence for our students and staff," she wrote.

    The principal has contacted the parents of the students who saw the video, and the district will assist them with finding resources to help their children if needed, Spoto said.

    Tschiderer was a strict teacher, was very involved in the school and served as an adviser for the yearbook and student council, Browne said.

    "He cared about Oak Grove Middle School," she said. "He cared about the students."

    Jeff Kolba, whose 14-year-old son was a student in Tschiderer's class two years ago, said he isn't sure what to think.

    "Unbelievable," he said. "I'm sure this didn't happen overnight."

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