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Teacher transferred to Middleburg Elementary concerns parents

Clay County deputies say man upset by breakup threatened to set self on fire

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Parents of some Middleburg Elementary School students are concerned about a new teacher with a recent history of mental health issues.

A report from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said the man poured gasoline on himself and threatened to light himself on fire. We’re not naming this teacher for privacy reasons, but we know he was held for psychiatric evaluation under Florida's Baker Act earlier this month.

The person who called 911 said the teacher was upset about his recent breakup and also texted a picture of the man pointing a shotgun at his chest. 

News4Jax was told this teacher used to work at Orange Park Elementary until the incident three weeks ago. The Clay County School District confirmed the teacher was transferred to Middleburg but couldn’t say why.

According to several Middleburg parents, that man began teaching Monday at their elementary school. 

The district did release a statement that said, in part:

Safety is of paramount importance and thus, the District has taken and will continue to take all reasonable measures to confirm that all employees can perform the duties associated with their roles and responsibilities. The school district will continue to work collectively with law enforcement and health professionals to make certain all students and staff are safe.”

The district said the teacher was cleared through a psychiatric evaluation before returning to school, but some parents said that’s not enough.

"That’s not a typical way to deal with something," said Keri Walls, mother of two students. "Cry it out. Be sad. But to douse yourself in gasoline and carry a gun is a whole other extreme in your mental state."

"With all of the other things that go on in this world that we have to worry about, we just don’t need an unstable teacher who could lose it at any time being with our children," parent Cassie Leino said. "I should feel safe sending my kids to school and not feel like if he’s upset he’s going to take it out on the kids."

Some parents said if this teacher stays, they’ll be pulling their children out of Middleburg Elementary School.

The school district said it can’t comment further because of mental health privacy. News4Jax has left messages for both the teacher and the person who called 911, but neither has responded.