FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. -- Budgets are tight, and seem to be getting tighter!
In Clay County, school officials say they could lose more than $6 million next year because of low enrollment.
Action News has learned a teacher at Fleming Island Elementary was forced out of the classroom months ago. But she's still on the district's payroll.
Action News obtained dozens of documents detailing what others claim they witnessed inside that teacher's classroom. Those statements - in part - lead to the arrest of the teacher but she was cleared by the state three months ago.
So we did some digging and went to the school district to find out why she is still getting a paycheck ... and not teaching.
A tip from a former law enforcement source led us to dig for answers on what happened in her Fleming Island classroom.
A public records request brought us 43 pages of investigative documents that show a teacher was removed from her classroom last April then arrested in September for simple battery.
One month later, an assistant state attorney decided the state should not pursue the charge. The teacher remains on the payroll but out of the classroom nearly a year later.
"I am furious, yet so confused as to how all this could happen and not be told," said one local mother, who said she is frustrated the information has been kept quiet until now.
We obtained information in three sworn witness statements. Two of the statements are from teachers aides who worked with the teacher in a special needs classroom. One of them described a student being "slapped, kicked, food being withheld."
Action News is not naming the teacher because the state attorney declined to prosecute.
In a disposition report obtained by Action News, an assistant state attorney wrote, "The state expects the evidence will show the defendent uses physical manipulation of her students as a form of behavior modification. There is no evidence of intent to do harm to her students."
Now, nearly three months after the state cleared her name, the Clay County school district has yet to decide what to do. Meantime, taxpayers are shelling out for her paycheck, an annual salary of about $53,000.
"That's my money. It's the kids money too," says Angela Connor.
So, if the teacher was cleared by the state attorney, why is she still being paid, but not put back in the classroom?
Action News took that question to the district office. They sent us this statement: "We let the judicial system take its due course before we begin our investigation because there may be no reason for a district investigation."
The district says it started its investigation, which is standard procedure, on Dec. 1 and this is a typical time frame.
So after nearly a year, 43 pages of documents, an arrest and no charges, we still don't have a clear idea of what happened in the special needs class. We do know you've paid nine months for a teacher who's not teaching.
After the investigation is complete, the superintendent will make a recommendation to the school board. Board members will then make the final decision.