JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The I-TEAM has discovered the incident leading to the suspension of a Duval County middle school teacher is linked to a police investigation into the possible sexual battery of a special needs student by two other students at the Joseph Stilwell Military Academy of Leadership.
While neither the school district nor the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will confirm the connection to us, we have spent weeks piecing together information that connects them.
The Duval County School District said that teacher Diane Velez failed to supervise two students at the school Jan. 11, the same day and nearly the same time of day outlined in a Sheriff's Office police report describing a possible sexual battery involving three minors at the school.
Police said sex crimes detectives are still investigating and would not release any details. However, a school district report obtained by the I-TEAM states that investigators found enough evidence to suspend Velez without pay for 30 working days for failing to supervise two students on Jan. 11. The district report describes her conduct that day as unacceptable and something that will not be tolerated.
Nearly every single word detailing what happened to a female student in the boy's bathroom at the school has been blacked out by the school district in its investigative report. But the I-TEAM was able to piece together that the girl is a special needs student and that her teacher, Velez, allowed her to go to the bathroom alone even though the district said the teacher was told the girl should never be unsupervised.
The investigative report also said the teacher never went to look for the girl or a male student, whom she also allowed to go to the bathroom. The students were gone for more than 20 minutes. School policy states that when a student is missing from class for more than eight to 10 minutes, teachers are required to contact security or school administration. The district says neither was notified.
The I-TEAM has also learned that a third student, a boy from a different class, was also in the bathroom at the same time. Surveillance video shows all three leaving the bathroom at about 2:40 p.m. Jan. 11.
Velez, the teacher, has never been in trouble before with the district.
According to her letter of reprimand, Velez’s conduct requires that she be issued a written reprimand and a 30-day unpaid suspension. The discipline was given instead of dismissal in order to afford her progressive discipline as negotiated by the collective bargaining agreement between Duval Teachers United, the teachers' union, and the Duval County School Board. The school board voted to approve the suspension as part of the consent agenda at Tuesday's meeting. Velez’s suspension begins April 5.
If your child attends Joseph Stilwell middle school and you are concerned about his or her safety, please email Jennifer Waugh at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our hotline: 479-NEWS.