OCALA, Fla. - An investigation is underway after it was reported that a teacher at Forest High School drowned wild raccoons in a large garbage bin while students in his agriculture class assisted and watched.
The mother of one of the students who was in the class Monday, who asked to remain anonymous, said her son came home in tears over what happened to the animals, which the teacher said had been killing the class's chickens.
"It made me sick. It made me sick to my stomach. It's terrible. It still does make me sick to my stomach," the woman said.
Pictures and video recorded by that student show a raccoon in a metal wire trap, which the teacher and students then lifted into a garbage bin while they filled it with water from several hoses.
"When the raccoons tried to come up for air they had metal rods and they held them down with metal rods and when the raccoon would try to pop its head up they held water hoses in its face to drown it," the mother said.
In one video, the tip of a raccoon's snout is seen sticking out just above the surface of the water.
"Why is he not fighting?" one person in the video says as the raccoon sits in the trap in the trash can filled nearly to the brim with water.
The woman said two raccoons were drowned Monday and an opossum that was found later was killed "just for sport."
"I don't think that's the way to treat any animal. Whether it is a raccoon or (another animal) you just don't torture an animal and kill it like that. They should have trapped the animal and had somebody take them and relocate the animals," the mother said.
Marion County Public Schools officials said they are investigating the incident and the teacher was placed on paid leave Tuesday afternoon.
"While law enforcement tells us the teacher did not do anything illegal, his actions before students are certainly questionable. Until our investigation is complete, I cannot share further details. The district is determining the status of the teacher at this moment," a spokesperson said.
A spokesman from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the agency is investigating the way in which the raccoons were killed. The findings of that investigation will be presented to officials with the state attorney's office, who will then decide if criminal charges are appropriate in this case.
To report suspected wildlife violations, call 888-404-FWCC (3922).
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